The Emergency in Florida Jails

The Emergency in Florida Jails

Jim Vondruska / Reuters Editor’s Note: The Atlantic is making vital coverage of the coronavirus available to all readers. Find the collection here . The Miami-Dade jail system is the eighth largest in the country. It typically houses 4,000 to 4,200 people as they await trial or serve sentences of less than a year. As of last week, 12 jail employees have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. An unknown number of prisoners are in quarantine, and some, including the rapper YNW Melly, have tested positive. Staff and prisoners are scared. Visitors are banned. Family members are finding it hard to get basic questions answered. On an episode of The Atlantic ’s new podcast, Social Distance , I discuss how the coronavirus is shifting policies in the criminal-justice system with my colleagues Katherine Wells and James Hamblin. Wells and I also speak with Maya Ragsdale, a former public defender who now works with the nonprofit groups Fem Power and Dream Defenders trying to post bail and secure release for pretrial defendants before they get COVID-19. She’s been inside the Miami-Dade jail system twice in the past two weeks, speaking with more than a dozen prisoners about their situation. What follows is a condensed, lightly edited version of those interviews. Listen to the episode here: Subscribe to Social Distance on Apple Podcasts , Spotify , or another podcast platform toreceive new episodes as soon as they’re published. Conor Friedersdorf : Can you describe Miami’s jails and explain when you realized that the coronavirus would be a problem there? Maya Ragsdale : I realized this was serious when we were given the stay-in-place order. Suddenly people were saying you need to stay six feet away from each other. Inside of jails, people have almost no distance. One jail in just absolutely […]

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