American prisons are terrible places for pretty much everyone — including both inmates and the guards who work there. Guards are accused of abuse all the time, sure, but many are also victims of the same broken justice system, as evidenced by the numerous news reports over the years that guards suffer from
A set of federal reports New Times obtained last week illustrates how that problem is playing out right now in Miami: On June 5, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) warned the Federal Correctional Institution in Miami, near Zoo Miami in southern Miami-Dade County, about a laundry list of potential workplace violations that appear to be endangering both inmates and guards trapped inside the facility. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the facility houses 1,325 male-only inmates.
The documents show OSHA toured the facility on December 5, 2017, and June 1, 2018, and issued warnings and full-on citations this June. The workplace-safety agency reported mold growing on walls in multiple rooms, leaking ceilings, workers not being given frequent-enough bathroom breaks, and some workers lacking basic security equipment.
Perhaps most troublingly, OSHA warned that inmates with histories of violent attacks were being transferred to FCI Miami, a low-security institution, where guards were not properly trained or equipped to take care of them. OSHA warned that this has led to multiple assaults inside FCI Miami — in one case, an inmate on March 2, 2018, attacked a guard and hurt the guard's hand during a contraband search, and in another case on March 16, OSHA noted that an inmate pinned a guard to the ground and injured the guard's ribs. The corrections officer required "prescription medication" and had to take four weeks off work.
In another case, OSHA said three different female employees had been sexually harassed and/or assaulted by an inmate who'd been transferred from a "Level Four" high-security facility to FCI Miami, a "Level-Two" prison. OSHA warned that the FCI Miami guards appeared not to have correct training in conflict-resolution skills, as well as inadequate access to safety equipment, video surveillance technology, alarm systems, or post-incident counseling.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Some of OSHA's findings — including the notices about inmate safety and bathroom breaks — were merely warnings. But others, including the mold, were full-on violations, which OSHA gave FCI Miami until June 29 to clean up. OSHA said it found mold in both the employee break room and inmate education building, and that "all places of employment" were not being kept clean. The agency also said it cited the prison for the exact same violation in March 2017.
In addition, the agency noted that employees had failed to report multiple on-site injuries to the federal government and the prison had failed to provide some workers with protective work boots.
This isn't the first safety complaint at FCI Miami New Times has reported on this year: In April, a Central Florida correctional officers' union, the American Federation of Government Employees Local 506, said it was furious that some of its employees had been sent down to FCI Miami during Hurricane Irma as extra security when the union felt the entire building should have been evacuated to protect both guards and inmates inside the prison.
FCI Miami was damaged during Hurricane Andrew, and in previous years, the federal government has pulled people out of the prison before major storms approached. But as the Category Five storm came closer and closer to Miami, the federal Bureau of Prisons instead kept inmates and guards inside — and after the storm, guards reported that the building flooded and power was out for days.