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Corrections Dept. Announces Changes To Deal With Mentally Ill Inmates

MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — The state's Department of Correction plans to implement a number of changes after reports of abuse of inmates with mental illness surfaced.

"The Department is responsible for the custody of between 15 and 20 percent of its inmates having a diagnosed mental condition requiring mental health treatment," said DOC Secretary Michael Crews. "We are committed to ensure our actions are reflective of the Department's mission to promote public safety and the safety of our staff and our inmates by providing them appropriate security, supervision, and care."

To that effort the department is hiring an ombudsman to oversee the treatment of mentally ill inmates. The ombudsman will work with about 1,000 inmates with severe mental illness who are admitted to inpatient units.

The Department is also developing specialized training for staff assigned to the inpatient units, which are located at 10 institutions across the state. The training emphasizes working as a team with a multidisciplinary approach to improve the care and custody of the inmates with severe mental illness residing in the inpatient units.

DOC officials in recent weeks have also fired nearly 50 prison employees, including several over abuse allegations that they punched and beat inmates.

A mental health advocacy group is suing the department, alleging officials and contractors ignored widespread abuse of mentally ill inmates in a Miami prison.

The lawsuit says guards left a prisoner in a locked, scalding hot shower as punishment for defecating in his cell. He later died. The warden at Dade Correctional was fired.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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