Jacksonville state lawmakers want U.S. Dept. of Justice to investigate deaths in Duval County jail

By: - August 22, 2023 5:11 pm

Barbed wire. Credit: Alex Potemkin, Getty Images.

Two Democratic state lawmakers representing Jacksonville in the Florida Legislature are requesting the Department of Justice to investigate reports of inmates dying and not receiving medication while in custody in the Duval County jail.

State Sen. Tracie Davis and Rep. Angie Dixon sent a letter Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, asking for the  Department of Justice to open federal and civil investigations into “any and all incidents involving serious injury or death due to medical negligence.”

“Since the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office ended its in-house medical care in October 2017 and hired a for-profit private company to provide health care services in jails, deaths have tripled,” the lawmakers wrote. “The company, Armor, even failed to report that it had been found criminally guilty for a Milwaukee County Jail death, though Florida law prohibits public agencies from signing contracts with convicted companies. Though JSO (Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office) recently terminated the contract with the company, it was only after a high-profile death and much media scrutiny.”

Davis and Nixon also noted that while local authorities are undergoing separate investigations into potential violations of state law, the state of Florida does not handle data regarding other contracts that public agencies may have with Armor, and the company has not provided copies of current contracts.

“The U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) has a unique capability to investigate cases where, as here, the negligence spans across states where Armor has had, or continues to maintain, contracts with correctional facilities,” the two lawmakers wrote.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office announced last month that it was terminating its $98 million contract with inmate health insurance carrier Armor Correctional Health less than a year into its five-year contract, according to a letter from the Jacksonville sheriff’s office.

The agency said that Armor Health had breached its contract because it failed to maintain accreditation with the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, failed to meet reporting requirements and complying with Florida’s Public Records Act, and failed to disclose a previous criminal conviction, News4Jax reported.

Armor Correctional Health Services has been under scrutiny following reporting the death of Dexter Barry, a 54-year-old detainee who missed critical doses of medication to prevent rejection of his transplanted heart, according to The Tributary, a Jacksonville-based news site. The site has reported that at least a dozen people said they didn’t get their prescriptions while jailed between December of 2022 and this June. They also reported that jail deaths in Duval County have tripled since Armor Correctional Health took over jail health care services in Duval County, from The Tributary.

The Phoenix reached out to Armor Correctional Health Services for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.