A paraplegic Miami-Dade jail inmate who tested positive for the novel coronavirus is hoping to rally support for his release after he was denied Monday for the second time, according to the Miami News Times. Anthony Swain, a 43-year-old plaintiff in a federal lawsuit, was arrested on Feb. 3, 2016 on drug trafficking and racketeering charges, according to the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department. Although a judge determined that he was eligible for release four years ago, a $650,000 bond is keeping him in jail, according to a web petition advocating for his release.
Public Defender Scott Hechinger said Thursday on Twitter that Swain’s attorneys were meeting with prosecutors to have his bail lowered. “Just got off phone with co-counsel who is also waiting to hear back. She said it’s a good sign it is taking so long. Been 40 minutes. ‘Usually a 30 second denial,’” Hechinger said in another tweet.
He included the petition in his message. “Anthony believed that if he wasn’t released immediately, he would catch the virus at the jail. He was correct,” petitioners said. “On Mother’s Day, he could not breathe. He was taken to the hospital, where he tested positive for coronavirus. As a person with multiple pre-existing conditions, his life is in danger.”
He also has cystic myelomalacia, a rare disease that affects his respiratory system, making him part of an especially vulnerable population more likely to suffer more severe impacts of the novel coronavirus. And Swain isn’t the only inmate whose life is on the line.
Charles Hobbs Jr., who was a 51-year-old inmate at a Miami-Dade jail, died earlier this month after being diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the Miami Herald. More than 300 inmates in the county’s three jails had contracted the virus by May 4, and by Tuesday that number was up to nearly 500, the newspaper reported.
Although Hobbs had been allowed release from jail on house arrest, he couldn’t pay $20,000 in bonds he owed and was forced to remain in jail, according to a federal lawsuit the Miami Herald obtained.
Gregory Arrington, a fellow inmate of Hobbs’, said in court documents related to the suit that about four weeks before his death, Hobbs “became sick with a cough and congestion. […] After about two weeks of having those symptoms, Charles’ condition deteriorated dramatically over the course of a week or a week and a half,” Arrington said. “On at least three occasions, Charles had a high fever.”
Arrington went on to say that a nurse only checked Hobbs’ temperature a few times and on April 28, he had a “medical emergency. […] When the medical staff was trying to take Charles out of our dorm, Charles began shaking violently in his bed. To me, it looked like Charles was having a seizure. The nurses had to hold Charles’ body down to prevent him from falling out of his bunk bed. It was terrifying,” Arrington wrote.
Statements from both Arrington and Swain were included in the lawsuit filed against the Miami Department of Corrections April 6. It calls for the release of vulnerable people in Miami city jails. Swain’s statement describing the horribly inhumane conditions inmates suffer was also published on The Appeal criminal justice news site.
“There are people in here who have AIDS, people who are recently coming out of surgery, people who are elderly,” he wrote. “Despite that, there are no measures taken to protect us from new people who circulate through our cell every day. We see people who are coughing, have fevers, and are otherwise ill, but they aren’t tested and we don’t know what they have.”
In one example, he described a cart nurse passing out medication while coughing and sneezing for about a month before he was quarantined. “We have people in this unit bleeding, yet we don’t even have bleach,” Swain wrote. “I’ve seen blood on the floor because the supposed cleaning products they give us can’t even clean that up.”
He said inmates live about two feet from other people at all times and one wall has 16 beds of “medical housing.” Inmates share toilets, sinks, remotes, Swain listed. “I can’t trust Corrections to take care of us if we do contract the virus. In my experience, Corrections cuts costs and ignores the medical needs of inmates,” Swain wrote. “For example, I slipped and fell in February 2017, and hurt my wrist. I filed grievance after grievance to be taken to the hospital, but my grievances went unanswered for more than a year. When I was finally taken to the hospital, more than a year and a half later, I no longer had any feeling in my left arm.”
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