I-TEAM: Body cameras to be deployed in Baker County Detention Facility

New information comes after I-TEAM obtains letter to Biden, inspection report on facility where there have been complaints of inhumane conditions, mistreatment of immigrants

MACCLENNY, Fla. – After obtaining the latest inspection report and a letter addressed to President Joe Biden, the News4JAX I-TEAM has learned some major changes are in the works for the Baker County Detention Center, where there have been complaints of inhumane conditions and the mistreatment of immigrants.

The letter to Biden — which was signed by more than three dozen local and national organizations — alleges that immigrants detained in the federal wing of the Baker County jail have reported intolerable abuse, excess use of force, medical neglect, and unsanitary living conditions.

The letter was also sent to the secretary of Homeland Security, requesting that it terminate its contract with Baker County. One of the issues the federal Office of Detention Oversight identified was staff at the facility failing to immediately obtain a video camera to record use-of-force incidents.

Baker County Undersheriff Randy Crews told the I-TEAM on Friday that they have nothing to hide and now plan on deploying body-worn cameras so every interaction is recorded with audio and video.

In August, the I-TEAM was given exclusive access to the federal wing of the detention center, touring the common areas, the kitchens and outdoor facilities.

Two months after the I-TEAM’s visit, the Office of Detention Oversight conducted a compliance inspection, giving the facility an overall rating of “superior.”

Inspectors did, however, note concerns, and according to the report, investigators said they uncovered that “the facility staff did not immediately obtain a video camera to record Use of Force incidents,” writing, “Specifically, ODO found in 11 out of 12 files, staff did not obtain a video camera even though the delay to do so would not endanger staff nor detainee.”

In an interview last year, Baker County Sheriff Scotty Rhoden defended his facility.

“Our people do a great job here, and they do it on a day-to-day basis, and I’m going to stand behind what we do, and what we do is right,” he said in August.

PREVIOUS STORIES: Civil rights groups file complaint alleging ‘inhumane conditions’ at federal wing of Baker County jail | I-TEAM obtains inspection report for Baker detention facility where detainees allege ‘inhumane conditions’ | I-TEAM given exclusive access by Baker County sheriff to federal wing of jail where immigrant detainees allege ‘inhumane conditions’ | ACLU of Florida, other groups want end to housing of ICE detainees in Baker County jail | Activists call for Baker County jail to be shut down over alleged mistreatment of immigrant detainees

Crews told the I-TEAM on Friday that he still stands behind his facility and its employees He wouldn’t talk on camera, citing cases currently in litigation, but he did give the I-TEAM new information about how video will be handled in the future.

“We will be deploying approximately 70 body cameras for staff members in the Baker County Detention Center within the next 30 to 60 days,” Crews told News4JAX.

He added: “Since all of these allegations surfaced, we’ve had two back-to-back superior ratings, and we’ve done a pre-audit, and we’ve been told there is no discrepancy here.”

The latest inspection report cited a complaint that “one detainee alleged she had not received treatment of her brain tumor.” According to the report, another complaint claimed she didn’t receive treatment for “multiple cysts on her thyroid and nodules on the lungs.”

Crews told the I-TEAM that the complaints against the federal holding facility are all part of an agenda to limit the number of detainee beds for migrants.

Last month, civil rights activists, attorneys and detainees’ families had a rally also calling for the Department of Homeland Security to terminate its contract with Baker County. The federal government has not yet responded to this request.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.