Miami-Dade County Jail
Miami-Dade County Jail
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Miami Man in Jail for Weed Wins $730K After Losing Kidney

Pascual Diaz-Plasencia was arrested on misdemeanor drug possession charges June 29, 2012, after police caught him with less than 20 grams of marijuana. Diaz-Plasencia had recently undergone a kidney transplant and had to take a set of pills twice daily to ensure his body didn't reject the organ.

But after cops picked him up for harmless pot possession, he said Miami-Dade County's Public Health Trust screwed up the order for his anti-rejection meds while he languished in Miami-Dade County Jail. He wound up going without his pills for seven days, lost the kidney, and in 2016 sued the county for negligence.

During the suit, Diaz-Plasencia died due to an unrelated issue. But a county probate court yesterday finally awarded his family a $730,000 settlement, further proving that useless weed arrests ultimately cost taxpayers far more than they help.

Diaz-Plasencia was represented by the Florida Justice Institute (FJI), a Miami-based, nonprofit law firm known across the state for fighting for the rights of prisoners and the indigent. (The FJI recently won a legal fight after catching the Florida Department of Corrections systematically mistreating hepatitis C in prisoners, leading to deaths.) The law firm said the county's negligence not only cost Diaz-Plasencia a kidney but also trapped him in "years of painful dialysis" and eventually forced him to undergo a second transplant.

“Mr. Diaz-Plasencia’s case is just one human face on Miami-Dade’s pattern of unconstitutional medical care,” FJI Director Randall C. Berg said today in a news release. “It shows the catastrophic consequences of the jail’s dysfunctional medical system.”

Berg and the FJI said Diaz-Plasencia's case epitomizes the negligent care every inmate at the Miami-Dade County Jail receives. The law firm said it was able to bring the case thanks to the results of a massive U.S. Department of Justice civil rights investigation into conditions at the jail. In 2013, the county and the DOJ agreed to improve conditions at the facility, but four years later, the FJI says Miami-Dade County still isn't complying fully with the order.

According to Diaz-Plasencia's original complaint, Miami-Dade officials were warned at the time of the arrest that his meds had to be special-ordered. But the initial suit said county officials lollygagged and waited much too long to order the meds — despite knowing that missing even a few days of anti-rejection doses could result in loss of the organ. The medication arrived July 3, but Diaz-Plasencia had already grown so ill that he had to be admitted to the hospital four days later. He remained there for nearly two weeks.

When he returned to jail, it astoundingly took county medical personnel three days to even check on him. Hospital employees also gave jail workers a bag full of his meds and demanded they be administered, but the suit claims the county even failed to do that. He was rushed back to the renal transplant unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital July 23, 2012, and again August 1, 12, and 25, after employees continually failed to give him his meds.

“Mr. Diaz-Plasencia suffered for weeks while in jail, and then his life was permanently altered because of this mistreatment,” family attorney Jonathan Freidin (of a different law firm working alongside the FJI) said today in a news release. “Despite the fact that he repeatedly notified medical staff that he urgently needed his anti-rejection medications, he didn’t get them, and as a result, he lost his kidney.”

According to a release the FJI sent today, federal monitors periodically inspect Miami-Dade jails for compliance. After seven reports, the DOJ said this past April 4 that, though the county had made progress, jail conditions were still unacceptable and in some cases had worsened.

“Four years of noncompliance is unacceptable,” the FJI's Berg said. “We urge the county to take aggressive action to ensure full compliance so that other victims don’t have to suffer the way Mr. Diaz-Plasencia did.”

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