JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office ended its contract with a controversial inmate healthcare company and has signed on with another company that also has a history of scandals. Both deals went through without public input or a competitive bidding process because healthcare contracts are exempt under Jacksonville city law.
The change in contractors comes after the death of Dexter Barry, a 54-year-old heart transplant patient brought to the jail on a misdemeanor in November. The jail failed for days to provide medication to prevent his body from rejecting his heart. He died soon after.
Janelle King, who is the daughter of Dexter Barry said she’s grateful healthcare contractor Armor Health is being held accountable, but she’s not satisfied that others at the jail won’t meet the same fate as her father.
“We appreciate T.K. Waters for coming to that decision, but again, you guys just have to do better,” she said.
On Tuesday, Sheriff T.K. Waters announced JSO is dropping Armor Health as the jail’s healthcare provider starting Sept. 1.
Armor’s $98 million five-year contract with Jacksonville was signed in October. The contract said Armor’s staff didn’t have any felony convictions, but earlier that month, a jury found the company guilty of neglecting an inmate who died of dehydration and altering records to cover it up.
Now, the tens of millions of dollars remaining on Armor’s contract will be going to a new company, NaphCare.
The company comes with its own baggage.
It’s been around for decades and has been involved in hundreds of lawsuits, and even paid nearly $700,000 in 2021 to resolve false claims allegations that it lied about the level of care provided to upcharge taxpayers.
There are also allegations that an inmate in its care in the Atlanta area last year was “eaten alive” by bedbugs. The family of another inmate in that area says he bled to death from a ruptured ulcer in 2021 after the company failed to provide adequate care.
“I understand that companies have their downfalls, but was that really the best you can do?” King said.
A city spokesperson told the I-TEAM the contract process with NaphCare did not have to happen in the Sunshine, and like the Armor Health contract, it did not have to go through a competitive bidding process because healthcare companies are exempt under city law.
“The bidding would be more in-depth than that not having the bidding at all...and you just sit here and say, ‘Okay, we’re just gonna go with these guys,’” King said.
A spokesperson for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said, “JSO Administration vetted NaphCare carefully, and the vendor comes highly recommended by other Florida counties that utilize it within their jails.”
They also said, “JSO rejects the characterization of NaphCare’s care history as poor. Every medical provider system, based outside or inside jails, has a history of lawsuits.”
King said she thinks JSO providing healthcare in-house would be the best option with the most oversight. JSO said that “is simply not feasible,” although healthcare at the jail was provided in-house for years before being privatized when Armor came on board in 2017.
“It’s like, we’re gonna go in circles again...like, ultimately, we’re going to be waiting for someone to die,” King said.
Armor has disputed that the lack of medication led to Barry’s death. They said they ordered the meds but they didn’t arrive by the time he was released.
The I-TEAM has reached out to NaphCare for comment but has not yet heard back.
According to the new NaphCare contract, it can be voided by either party without cause as long as the other party is notified 180 days in advance.