In today's excerpt--Miami Beach in 1980, an economically depressed period shortly before its rebirth as America's Riviera. The 1980 Mariel boatlift unexpectedly overwhelms the capacity of Miami Beach's police force, jails and court system:
"In April 1980, an estimated ten thousand Cubans stormed the Peruvian embassy in Havana seeking political asylum. Eventually, Cuba's dictator, Fidel Castro, allowed these and tens of thousands more political refugees to depart for the United States from the port of Mariel in an international incident known as the Mariel boatlift. Over the next few months, the United States government allowed these refugees unrestricted entry into the country. But Castro duped President Jimmy Carter--of the approximately 125,000 Cubans who made their way to U.S. shores, an estimated 10 percent were violent criminals and sadistic sexual predators.
"[Miami Beach police chief Peter Corso said] 'The streets are a war zone, and it's not too hard to figure out why. Castro sends us 15,000 violent lunatics and career criminals, and suddenly we're in the middle of the worst crime wave in our history. And these criminals are animals. They're like nothing we've ever seen--and there are thousands of them. They place no value on human life, and they have no sense of contrition. ... Most of them have been in Cuban prisons or insane asylums for most of their lives. They've been tortured, beaten, starved, and shocked with electrodes. Our judicial system and the treatment we give our prisoners make American jails seem like heaven in comparison. They don't speak English, they can't get a job, and most of them end up committing crimes. ...
" 'Miami Beach will have over 77,000 calls for police service this year. ... The Miami jails are so crowded that unless the police charge the assailant with first-degree murder or armed violence, the jailers just let them go after they're booked. The criminals just have to sign a paper promising to return to court for arraignment. They send them back to the slums of South Beach on a Dade County bus because the city policy requires that when you release prisoners in Miami, you have to give them money to get back home. The criminals usually beat the arresting officer back to the beach and commit another crime before nightfall. We've arrested the same offender three times in one night.' "
Alex Daoud, Three-time Mayor of Miami Beach, Sins of South Beach, Pegasus, Copyright 2006 by Alex Daoud, pp. 75-77.