Jacksonville lawmakers call on DOJ to investigate possible medical negligence at Duval County jail

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Local lawmakers and civil rights activists are calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate possible medical negligence at the Duval County jail.

The News4JAX ITEAM has been reporting on a number of in-custody deaths.

Amid backlash, Sheriff T.K. Waters recently announced the healthcare contractor at the jail will be replaced by another company starting next week.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Fl. Rep. Angie Nixon and Fl. Sen. Tracie Davis asked him “to investigate the skyrocketing deaths and the reports of people not receiving necessary medication while in custody in Duval county jails.”

“Many of them are awaiting trial or are in trial,” Rep. Nixon said. “And it’s just unfortunate that their lives are at risk.”

The letter cites investigative reporting by The Tributary and other outlets regarding inmate neglect “resulting in permanent injury or death,” from people with diabetes not receiving insulin medication to the death of 54-year-old Dexter Barry in November. He died several days after he did not receive his heart transplant medication at the jail.

Since July, three people have died in the Duval County jail, including a woman believed to have had a brain aneurism and two other inmates who had unspecified medical episodes.

Sheriff T.K. Waters has since announced he’s terminating the multi-million dollar inmate healthcare contract with Armor Health.

“However, it’s only after media scrutiny and...the community being a little bit up in arms,” Rep. Nixon said. “And so we just feel that it makes sense for the Department of Justice to get involved.”

JSO has since signed on with NaphCare, an inmate healthcare provider that’s already under scrutiny by the DOJ. NaphCare provides physical and mental healthcare at the Fulton County jail in Atlanta. A civil investigation into the facility was announced last month after an inmate there was alleged to have been eaten alive by bedbugs.

“For that to happen is egregious and just shows neglect, blatant neglect,” Nixon said.

U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said the severe neglect wasn’t an isolated incident.

“Evidence emerged that the mental unit where he died was infested with insects and that the majority of people living in that unit were malnourished and not receiving basic care,” Clarke said.

NaphCare is set to begin providing healthcare in Jacksonville’s jail September 1.

A spokesperson from the DOJ said they can neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation into the Duval County jail, as per their standard practice.

Armor Health disputes Dexter Barry died just because of the missed doses. NaphCare and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office have not yet returned News4JAX’s requests for comment.

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I-TEAM and general assignment reporter