In a move some defense lawyers have blasted as cruel, Miami-Dade County yesterday evening said in a media release that it is trying to force some inmates currently out on pretrial release back behind bars before Hurricane Dorian hits Florida.
"Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department’s mission is to serve our community by providing safe, secure and humane detention of individuals in our custody while preparing them for a successful return to the community," the county jail system announced. "Consistent with our mission statement, designated offenders within our Monitored Release Program will return to secure housing with a post storm release."
The county's monitored release program essentially just lets both pretrial and sentenced people out while wearing ankle-monitors. Spokespeople for the jail system did not immediately respond to New Times' request to explain how many pretrial or sentenced inmates the county wants to bring back behind bars.
But Miami Herald reporter David Ovalle first tweeted yesterday that the Dade County jail system wanted to throw more than 70 people — who have not yet been convicted of crimes — back into jail before the storm hit. Ovalle reported that the group included Mexican actor Pablo Lyle, who is accused of manslaughter, as well as four men separately accused of attacking LGBTQ people in Miami Beach. Some defense lawyers have reportedly already filed motions to prevent their clients from being locked up again:
Unclear how many will actually be taken into custody. Defense lawyers were livid. "It's unnecessary and cruel," lawyer Daniel Tibbets told me. He was still trying to keep his client out on house arrest during the storm.— David Ovalle (@DavidOvalle305) August 30, 2019
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UPDATE: Judge Fine issued an order keeping Dan's client out. Lot of similar requests going to duty judge as the storm churns toward us— David Ovalle (@DavidOvalle305) August 30, 2019
The move appears to be designed to cut down on bail-jumping after the storm. Critics of the American bail system, however, note that pretrial detention is overwhelmingly unnecessary and that those who sit in jail longer before their court dates typically are more likely to wind up pleading to longer prison sentences, often unnecessarily.
Depending on the storm's path, it's also possible that the jail might need to be evacuated — in 2017, the federal Bureau of Prisons chose not to evacuate Miami's Federal Correctional Institution and instead flew additional prison guards down to Miami to monitor the inmates. After the storm, New Times spoke with those very guards, who said the building flooded; rooms were moldy and filled with urine and feces; meals were not provided for them until 24 hours after arriving at the facility; and the power went out overnight, too. The state and federal government have not yet said whether they will evacuate any correctional facilities as Dorian approaches.
As of the latest 8 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Dorian's path has shifted east into the Atlantic Ocean. However, forecasters warn that large portions of the east coast of Florida still remain in the cone of uncertainty.