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#4816: `Near-riot' rocks Krome center (fwd)


Published Wednesday, August 9, 2000, in the Miami Herald 
 `Near-riot' rocks Krome center
 The guards, claiming they were inadequately staffed, managed to calm
the ex-convicts down. _____By ANDRES VIGLUCCI 

 About 20 Haitian ex-convicts created a serious disturbance at the Krome
 immigration detention center during an attempt to transfer them to a
jail in Bradenton, prompting complaints by officers that there weren't
enough guards on duty ``due to improper planning, and inadequate
utilization of resources.''  According to a memo by one INS officer, the
Haitians, classified as aggravated felons, threatened officers and
became ``aggressively noncompliant, disruptive and began destroying
government property in the dormitory in which they were held'' just
before dawn on July 30. Guards did manage to calm down the detainees,
and the transfer was postponed until later that day.  But the near-riot
is the latest evidence of disarray at the troubled detention facility,
 already enmeshed in a federal investigation into complaints of sexual
abuse of female detainees by officers. Just last month, a much-praised
administrator who led efforts to clean up the camp resigned
unexpectedly, throwing the future of reform efforts into doubt.
 The Immigration and Naturalization Service did not publicize the
disturbance. But the incident is outlined in two internal memos obtained
Tuesday by The Herald. In the memos, officers complain to INS superiors
that not only were there insufficient guards on duty to handle the
unusually large transfer, but that it took supervisors hours to provide
reinforcements. The officers also say that a supervisor committed a
``flagrant'' security breach when -- in an apparent effort to calm the
detainees -- he allowed the angry Haitians to use his personal cell
phone to call relatives, who showed up at the Krome gate with clothes
and other property for their family members. The officers said the
concession put guards transporting the Haitians at risk by alerting
relatives to their departure, and set a dangerous precedent. ``This
group of criminal aliens disrespected staff, disobeyed orders, destroyed
 government property, and threatened officers with bodily harm, but were
catered to and allowed telephone calls,'' wrote one officer, Jose Scott.
``This is against all procedures . . . and has allowed an opening in the
door for further behavior of this type.'' The second memo was signed by
officer S. Prager. An INS spokesman in Miami, Rodney Germain, said
Tuesday he had no knowledge of the incident. He said he was unable to
obtain information from Krome officials by the end of the day.
 ``This is our first hearing of it,'' he said. ``I'm trying to get
information on it.'' According to the memos, an acting Krome
administrator identified as J. Bealts organized a simultaneous transfer
of 20 Haitians and 30 Cubans to county jails elsewhere in Florida. Such
transfers are becoming increasingly common as Krome is strained beyond
capacity by a 1996 law requiring the detention and deportation of
noncitizens convicted of a wide range of crimes, no matter how long
 ago they were committed. Advocates have been warning that long
detentions coupled with frequent transfers to distant jails where
conditions are often poor could lead to serious disturbances. According
to the memos, the overnight shift charged with handling the July 30
 transfers had insufficient officers to control the detainees, who were
regarded as ``primary security risks'' because of records ranging from
murder to child molestation. In addition, one officer wrote, the
processing area where the detainees were gathered lacks individual cells
to separate the aliens, was too cramped to hold the detainees safely,
and forced officers to mix the ex-convicts with noncriminals and minors
detained at Miami International Airport. When the Haitian detainees
began telling officers they would not leave peacefully, they were moved
to a small nearby dorm, where they reportedly ripped up
 mattresses and caused other damage. The Cubans were overheard talking
about taking hostages, but caused no problems, according to one memo.
 Bealts and other staff, however, did not arrive until the start of the
next shift, the memos said. ``Why was there no show of force by other
staff until 7 a.m. the following morning? This allowed for the festering
of sentiment and violence throughout the night,'' Scott wrote.