The ninth floor of the Miami-Dade pretrial detention facility is dubbed the "forgotten floor." Here, inmates with the most severe mental illnesses are incarcerated until they're ready to appear in court.
Most often, they face drug charges or charges of assaulting an officer --charges that Judge Steven Leifman says are usually "avoidable felonies." He says the arrests often result from confrontations with police. Mentally ill people often won't do what they're told when police arrive on the scene -- confrontation seems to exacerbate their illness and they become more paranoid, delusional, and less likely to follow directions, according to Leifman.
So, they end up on the ninth floor severely mentally disturbed, but not getting any real help because they're in jail.
We toured the jail with Leifman. He is well known in Miami as an advocate for justice and the mentally ill. Even though we were not exactly welcomed with open arms by the guards, we were given permission to shoot videotape and tour the floor. Go inside the 'forgotten floor'
At first, it's hard to determine where the people are. The prisoners are wearing sleeveless robes. Imagine cutting holes for arms and feet in a heavy wool sleeping bag -- that's kind of what they look like. They're designed to keep the mentally ill patients from injuring themselves. That's also why they have no shoes, laces or mattresses. Read full article »