Duval jail healthcare provider accused after death of former inmate says it ‘delivered quality medical care’

Jacksonville signed $98M contract with Armor Correctional Health Services just weeks after company’s felony conviction

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the first time since it was accused of failing to provide an inmate his essential medication — which his family says led to his death — News4JAX heard from the company that provides healthcare at the Duval County jail.

The company, Armor Correctional Health Services, is now under investigation by the state for failing to report past criminal convictions against the company, which is required by Florida law.

News4JAX I-TEAM also learned more about the company’s $98 million contract with the City of Jacksonville.

The city signed a contract with Armor Health worth $98 million in November, just weeks after the company’s felony convictions in connection with an inmate’s death in Wisconsin.

The company first started providing healthcare at the Duval County jail in 2017. The year before, the city reported its in-house jail healthcare provided effective treatment and it cost half as much as other major Florida counties were spending. Still, those services were later privatized the following year, resulting in an added $12 million budget item.

Since then, Armor Health has become embroiled in controversy, but the company said Friday it provided sufficient care for the former Jacksonville inmate who died, 54-year-old Dexter Barry.

Barry spent a few days in jail in November after he was charged with verbally threatening his neighbor.

Barry had a heart transplant that required daily medication to keep his body from rejecting it, but records show he never received it at the jail.

MORE: Man dies after going days in Duval County jail without medication, family says

Armor Health of Duval County is contracted to provide healthcare to local inmates, even though a jury found its parent company’s neglect led to a Wisconsin inmate’s death and they falsified records to cover it up.

“The fox guarding the henhouse,” attorney Andrew Bonderud said.

Bonderud is representing Barry’s family. He is preparing to sue parent company Armor Correctional Health Services, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the city.

“They’re not doing their job,” Barry’s daughter Janelle King said.

In a statement, Armor Health said, “Our initial investigation of the clinical care received by the detainee while in custody at the jail has found that our clinicians followed protocol and delivered quality medical care. HIPAA laws prevent us from releasing any further information.”

“Additionally, the incident in Milwaukee referenced in the media is currently being disputed in the court system,” Manuel Fernandez, Chief Operating Officer at Armor Heath, said in a statement.

Nearly $100 million Duval County taxpayer dollars were awarded to the company with no competition just weeks after its Wisconsin convictions. Under city law, healthcare contracts are exempt from the competitive bidding process. The contract says JSO had the authority to enter into the agreement on its own.

A city spokesperson told the I-TEAM, the exemption meant it didn’t have to go through a vetting process from the city.

“At this point, it seems like instead of you know, providing medical care, it’s just really all about the money. That’s like, you know, the big the bigger picture is the dollar signs. And I mean, that sucks. That you know, these people lives don’t mean nothing but $1 to you,” Dexter Barry Jr. told the I-TEAM.

A spokesperson with the Sheriff’s Office said the contract was signed before current Sheriff T.K. Waters was in office and JSO has asked Armor Health to conduct its own in-house review.

“The contract between the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Armor Health, a third-party medical care provider vendor, was entered into under a previous administration. After Sheriff Waters took office on November 20, 2022 he became fully involved in every aspect of the agency, including the day-to-day operations involving Armor and its medical care of inmates. As a result, Sheriff Waters and the members of his Staff responsible for the safety and welfare of the inmate population began working with Armor personnel to improve processes and resolve challenges that were brought to their attention. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has administratively reviewed specific instances involving the care provided by Armor, and we have also asked that Armor conduct their own in-house review in light of recent events. Sheriff Waters is committed to continuing to ensure every inmate receives all necessary medical and mental health care while in the custody of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office,” JSO wrote in a statement.

About the Author:

I-TEAM and general assignment reporter