Ulysses Cabrera [Source:
Jonny’s physical suffering and anxiety break Maria’s heart during the two, seven-minute phone calls they share most days since his arrest in December 2021. Stress takes its toll, and Maria has been sick for weeks. Prison not only punishes inmates and fails to rehabilitate them, but it turns their families into
Jonny suffers from
meningitis, an inflammation of the membrane surrounding his brain that causes fluid to accumulate in his head. As a result, he experiences fevers, severe headaches, dizziness, and confusion. Before Jonny’s arrest, a metal plate and shunt (drainage tube) were placed in his skull by a neurosurgeon.
Shunting allows the fluid in Jonny’s head to drain out into his body, so his brain is not crushed by the buildup of pressure in his skull. However, shunts are tricky to maintain. They are highly susceptible to infection and, in Jonny’s case, require that he ingests a daily cocktail of antiviral, antibiotic, and antifungal medications.
Additionally, Jonny has undiagnosed gastrointestinal problems that result in relentless bouts of vomiting. But Jonny is not treated for his illness. Instead, Jonny tells Maria that “the guards put him in isolation [solitary confinement] to punish him because he cannot stop throwing up.” In April, Jonny said he was also “stripped naked and put under 24-hour supervision in a cold cell.” According to Maria, “isolation is sometimes a week, other times it’s a few days.” Jonny reports to Maria that since April, “he has lost over thirty pounds.” Solitary confinement is considered
torture by human rights advocates.
When Maria doesn’t hear from Jonny for a few days, she assumes he is in isolation—which has become a more comforting thought to her than acknowledging he might be dead. Maria said Jonny calls her crying and tells her, “other prisoners have to help him because he has no strength.” Sometimes, “he even has trouble standing,” Maria’s daughter explained.
Maria believes “he is dying in there” and “Jonny thinks the prison is trying to kill him.” Often, “the guards claim a doctor is coming to see him, but no one arrives.” On the rare times he is given medication, “it’s half the quantity he needs.” Maria said Jonny is “terrified of the guards and a few prisoners.” Zoukis Consulting Group reports that
violence is high at the FDC Miami facility. According to one inmate, “there is an altercation every day, and the use of weapons (e.g., knives, locks, etc.) are not uncommon.”
FDC Miami is a
BOP facility. Attorney General Merrick Garland named Colette Peters as its head administrator on August 2nd to stem systemwide allegations of poor management by former director Michael D. Carvajal. Notwithstanding, attorney Petruzzi finds the FDC Miami particularly mismanaged by warden Eugene K. Carlton.
While he doesn’t negate the overall issues of staff shortages and augmentation faced by all federal prisons as reasons for inmate neglect and abuse, he views warden Carlton’s recent bonus, which he believes is based on his medical cost-cutting initiatives, to be “blood money.”
Warden Carlton was not available for comment. However, BOP has stated that bonuses are
“based upon work performance.” Yet, BOP won’t define the criteria or indicators used to measure performance.
Seemingly, BOP hides behind an opaque excuse that their decision is for “safety and security reasons,” which angers critics who view these bonuses as “
a reward for negligence and incompetence” and an outright waste of taxpayer money.
Need for Civil Rights Lawsuits
Litigation against BOP facilities is happening nationwide, and attorney Petruzzi seeks to organize a similar effort at FDC Miami.
He is encouraged by the
litigation put forth by the Federal Defenders of New York against the Metropolitan Detention Center, a federal jail located in Brooklyn, New York (where Jeffrey Epstein was killed), and its warden for violating the inmates’ Sixth Amendment right to Counsel and its own Administrative Procedure Act; the Federal Class-Action lawsuit filed against a federal prison located in Danbury, Connecticut, to protect prison inmates from Covid-19; and, the many lawsuits filed for sexual abuse against a federal prison in Dublin, California.
Maria and Jonny’s surnames are not used to protect them from possible retaliation.
Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn where Jeffrey Epstein was killed. [Source:
Elected officials must ensure prisons are staffed with properly trained correctional officers and that inmates receive necessary medications and treatments, as is their constitutional right.
In addition, taxpayer dollars should be spent wisely through changes in mandatory sentencing for drug-related offenses—to reduce the prison population, reunite families, and end intergenerational incarceration—and not be misused to expand a failing prison system and chase a skyrocketing incarceration rate.
Countries in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones!
Lauren Smith writes for the Alliance for Global Justice, Black Agenda Report, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Global Research, Monthly Review, and Telesur. She holds a BA in Politics, Economics, and Society from SUNY at Old Westbury and an MPA in International Development Administration from New York University. Ms. Smith is also a member of the Green Party and . Sanctionskill.org