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Death spurs jail kitchen upgrade

A jail inmate died of salmonella poisoning, an autopsy shows, but his death has not been linked to food within the facility.
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A jail inmate died of salmonella poisoning, an autopsy shows, but his death has not been linked to food within the facility.
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A Miami-Dade County jail inmate died last November of salmonella poisoning, a newly released autopsy report shows, but health authorities did not link his death to food or conditions inside the jail.

How Arlin Madrid-Reyes, 22, a gang member afflicted with a kidney disorder, contracted the bacteria may never be known.

Nevertheless, his death spurred improvements in the kitchen of the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, Miami-Dade’s corrections director said.

Rust was removed from refrigerators and doors. Grease-caked ovens were cleaned. And the new jail director said the department may overhaul how it distributes food to inmates.

”It reemphasized how important the food service program is here,” Director Tim Ryan said Wednesday. “It triggered a review of the entire operation and got us thinking where we should be going in the long term.”

Madrid-Reyes was a member of the notorious Central American street gang known as Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. Madrid-Reyes — who had the letters ”M” and ”S” tattooed on opposing calves — was one of five MS-13 followers arrested in Miami in 2005 after a home invasion robbery.

Because of ailing health and frequent hospital visits, Madrid-Reyes was put on a low-sodium diet that included Salisbury steak, peach slices and whole-wheat bread for dinner.


After complaining of stomach pains on Nov. 4, Madrid-Reyes was admitted to Pan American Hospital, where he died three days later.

Two of his blood samples immediately tested positive for salmonella, bacteria that can cause diarrhea, nausea and dehydration. At the same time, 18 other inmates also fell ill, complaining of stomach pains.

The county’s health department launched an investigation. Kitchen workers stopped preparing hot food at the jail for 24 hours.

Inspectors found no traces of salmonella in kitchen food or water at the jail’s kitchen. A packet of tuna found in his cell also tested negative. None of the ill inmates tested positive.

”It appears the infection of the expired inmate was an isolated case,” according to a health department report.

Exposure to salmonella is common and can often affect people in institutions that house many people such as jails, said Dr. Tanvi Sharma, a University of Miami professor of infectious diseases.

”He could have been infected even a long time ago and just been a chronic carrier,” Sharma said.

Either way, the bacteria likely crept into his bloodstream because of a weakened immune system caused by steroids he was taking for a kidney disorder known as minimal change disease, according to the medical examiner’s report.

A Miami attorney for Madrid-Reyes’ family in Honduras said this week that a wrongful-death suit will likely be filed against the county.

”It’s not like there is a question of where he was getting his food from,” said attorney Todd Rosen.


His death cast scrutiny on the jail’s kitchen. Problems had surfaced in the past.

A year ago, investigators reviewing the entire department in the wake of an inmate escape discovered raw sewage seeping through the cracked kitchen floor.

Last June, at least 45 inmates and three staffers became ill, forcing the department to close the kitchen temporarily.

After Madrid-Reyes died, health inspectors on Nov. 8 reported troubling finds inside the facility’s aging kitchen, which serves more than 21,000 meals a day.

Among the findings: rusty shelves, refrigerators and sprinklers, and a series of broken doors, frames and fixtures.

A report deemed the inspection ”unsatisfactory.” A tour the next day reached the same conclusion.

By Dec. 6, jailers had fixed most of the problems. The kitchen was deemed ”satisfactory,” according to a health report. A routine inspection will be held this month.

Ryan said trainers have since reemphasized hygiene precautions to jail staffers and inmates. Extra training for kitchen employees also has been added.

Also, Ryan said as part of a new master plan in the works, the jail system could change to a centralized feeding system.

That means meals would be prepared at one main building, frozen and sent to jail facilities countywide for reheating.

Madrid-Reyes’ death has ”sort of awakened us to ensuring the health of our inmates and staff,” Ryan said.