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Can a union save inmates? 

The jail has had five deaths this year, including Michael Williams, whom the Weekly reported last week died under suspicious circumstances. Medical staff members said they are often blamed for deaths when it is actually the jail's procedures that hinder adequate health care.

"Inmates are dying in jail when that could be prevented -- if we had a better staff, better trained staff or a staff that wasn't exhausted," says Pauline Reed, a psychiatric nurse at the jail.

The jail's medical employees were scheduled to vote Thursday, Oct. 26, on whether to become an AFSCME local.

Meanwhile, management has been hostile to union talk, employees allege. People have been moved from shifts without notice or disciplined for petty reasons. The Corrections Department also issued a release disputing many of AFSCME's assertions.

Union officials were unable to discuss specifics of their bargaining plan. "These people are telling us they have been treated really bad," says AFSCME's Florida president, Jeanette Wynn.

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