In-custody inmates are not getting their court dates, if they’re on the Q List.
The Q stands for quarantine. It’s been going on since reopening, but busy practitioners will tell you it’s reached epic proportions, with no end in sight. Sometimes up to half the in-court jail list gets scratched, with no dates offered by BSO as to when an inmate will once again be transportable.
Officials in the know put the number of inmates in Q at a lower rate, at roughly one-third of the jail population. Even with a lower estimation, with a little more than 3500 humans currently incarcerated in Broward County, the numbers are staggering. With the jail cap creeping over 81%, with lockdowns and other harsh conditions in place for safety reasons, inmates who can’t get their highly anticipated day in court, and their families, are rightfully furious. The only good news is the decreasing number of positives, down from approximately 260 last week to around 160 currently, keeping in mind that, for obvious reasons, only one positive can send the Q numbers soaring.
So what about Zoom?
Currently there’s one Zoom link for in-custody’s operational, and only for afternoon negotiated pleas that will result in release. The problem, we’re told, is the movement deputies for BSO, charged with securely transporting inmates to court, are the same men and women who made the Zoom in-custody dockets work during the closures. Since they’re now tied up with transport to the courthouse, and because it takes the same number of BSO personnel to securely take a reduced number of prisoners to court as it would to take a full load, there’s no one left to make Zoom work from the jail on a large scale. The result? No court for Q.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any easy solves here, short of the judges going back to aggressively granting releases, as was common prior to reopening. A return to full closure isn’t an option, not only because it’s a bad idea, but because we’re told the powers that be weren’t happy with Broward staying closed as long as it did in the first place. Zooming from the quarantine units themselves also isn’t an option, because of the way the jail pods are laid out. It’s a very bad situation with no cross-agency solution, unless, as previously stated, the judges come up with release plans to address the problem, instead of simply resetting the Q cases, which has unfortunately been the answer so far.
Here’s what Gordon Weekes had to say earlier this evening:
BSO has to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. They’re the largest budget item out of Broward County, and they should have the resources to run both Zoom and in-person dockets in the midst of a public health crisis. Short of BSO being able to maintain all court hearings, judges need to be prioritizing release to preserve access to courts and timely court hearings defendants are entitled to with or without a pandemic.
WAIT AND Q …