An employee who worked in Miami-Dade County's main criminal courthouse, the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building, has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The county court system said today in a public advisory that the employee worked in courtroom 6-2 with Circuit Judge William Altfield on March 10 and 11.
"Persons who were in this location on Tuesday, March 10th and Wednesday, March 11th should follow the self-monitoring steps outlined in the Centers for Disease Control website... for the next 14 days," the advisory states.
Jail and court workers around the world have struggled to respond to the spread of the novel coronavirus in recent months. Multiple prosecutors' offices, including those in San Francisco and Brooklyn, have said they will take measures to limit the number of new arrestees entering the jail system and to release misdemeanor or nonviolent arrestees who pose no immediate danger to the public. The nation of Iran today said it would release 85,000 prisoners as it deals with one of the worst viral outbreaks in the world.
Florida last week shut down nearly all in-person jury trials. Miami-Dade County has suspended all misdemeanor and traffic courts for two weeks. But bond hearings have continued to occur unabated, and critics say the court system needs to act much faster to limit the number of new detainees entering jail during the outbreak. After receiving heaps of criticism from activist groups and her 2020 primary election opponent, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said late yesterday she was working with judges and public defenders to develop a plan to release nonviolent and misdemeanor inmates from the jail system during the pandemic.
In a New York Times op-ed yesterday, prison education worker Amanda Klonsky warned that if nothing is done, American jails — where inmates live in extremely close quarters with poor sanitation and medical care — will likely become epicenters of the COVID-19 outbreak.
As New Times reported this week, federal immigration courts in Florida have barely paused operations. Immigrants at South Florida's main Immigration and Customs Enforcement check-in site in Miramar have been forced to stand in cramped lines for hours as the outbreak has spread.
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