REPRINT FROM MIAMI NEW TIMES – Written by Jerry Ianelli
While typical Floridians spent their holiday weeks cooking meals, welcoming family members from out of town, and finding various ways to make merry, the people inside Miami’s main federal prison — inmates and workers alike — remain trapped in a mold-infested hell.
In September, New Times obtained photos showing black mold growing inside the Federal Correctional Institution Miami (FCI Miami), the largest federal prison in Miami-Dade County. Critics were horrified, and members of the correctional officers’ union that represents workers at the facility said the mold was making people inside the facility sick.
Now, according to documents obtained by New Times, the federal government has officially cited the prison for mold, and not for the first time.
October 29, 2018, inspectors from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) said they toured the compound and found mold growing in two areas. OSHA inspectors spotted “visible mold on the ceiling where employees are assigned to perform work duties” in the Everglades and Coral wings of the compound. The documents note that FCI Miami was previously cited for the same violations twice in 2018. (This past October, McClatchy’s Washington, D.C., bureau reported that the Federal Bureau of Prisons [BOP] has failed to prevent dangerous mold from growing in multiple facilities and that OSHA has struggled to force the BOP to fix itself.)
By all accounts, FCI Miami appears to be a rotting mess of a place to work. In 2017, during Hurricane Irma, the BOP did not evacuate the facility and instead shipped in extra correctional officers from other areas across the United States. Those officers say they were trapped in rotting, mold-infested, leaky rooms covered in leftover feces and vomit from prisoners. The workers say they were barely fed while they waited out the storm and that the power failed overnight.
Mold has been a persistent issue at the prison. This past September 7, the correctional officers’ union — the American Federation of Government Employees Local 506 — filed a formal complaint with OSHA claiming “employees are being exposed to upper respiratory illnesses from alleged mold exposure.” The union said that it documented mold in at least seven buildings in the facility and that workers and inmates alike were falling ill. Mold even infected the prison’s health-services wing.
“The agency doesn’t care about inmates, staff, or public safety — their main priority is to save money,” union president Kareen Troitino said at the time. “The higher the cost savings, the higher bonuses are awarded to the agency’s higher-end executives.”
At the time, BOP representatives said they were “looking into” the latest round of mold complaints at FCI Miami. But now they don’t have to — federal inspectors appear to have done the work for them.