Miami-Dade County has agreed to a long and expensive list of ways to improve how it treats its jail inmates — particularly those who are mentally ill or suicidal, bringing to an end an investigation the U.S. Department of Justice launched five years ago that found civil-rights violations at county jails, the Miami Herald reports. As part of two agreements approved by county commissioners, Miami-Dade must construct a mental-health treatment facility for inmates, which is estimated to cost between $12 million and $16 million to build and more than $29 million a year to operate.
The county must also install a $6 million electronic jail management system that will cost an additional $500,000 a year to maintain, install an additional $1.2 million in video monitoring equipment, and spend $1.3 million more a year to train corrections employees. “It's time that we change the way we've been dealing with this problem,” said County Judge Steve Leifman, a longtime critic of the jail system and reformer who for years has pushed for the mental-health facility. “This is an excellent step in the right direction.” The Justice Department concluded that Miami-Dade's jail system — the eighth-largest in the nation — engaged in a “pattern and practice of constitutional violation” against inmates housed in deplorable living conditions under abusive, inadequate or limited care.