JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Despite a complaint to the contrary, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams doesn’t believe the Duval County jail has a gang problem.
The allegation emerged last week when jailhouse phone calls placed by Gordon Shutt were obtained by News4Jax. Shutt, who was beaten in the jail in April after his arrest over a suspended license, called his girlfriend to bail him out. He said he was attacked for trying to use one of the phones.
“The phone situation is literally controlled by a gang,” said Shutt, who later added that he would not be able to “touch anything and it’s going to be a serious (expletive) problem.”
Exactly what happened to Shutt and why the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has no surveillance video of the incident is part of his complaint against the agency. His attorney John Phillips went public after the video was erased despite repeated requests to preserve it for a potential court case.
Williams told News4Jax he does not see gangs as a problem plaguing the facility, though he acknowledged that fights have been known to break out from time to time. “In terms of gangs being in control of the jail, (that) is absolutely not true,” he said.
Phillips isn’t convinced.
“This isn’t the first client who told us that there’s some kind of a rite of passage or pay-to-play for use of phones or privileges,” Phillips said, adding that the sheriff ought to address the issue.
Williams said it’s something the agency has already dealt with.
“The employee responsible resigned under investigation because of that,” he said of the Shutt case. He said new, albeit unspecified, measures are in place, but noted that “people make mistakes and we have to hold people accountable when that happens.”
The saga will likely play out in court. Phillips plans to file a lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office, alleging the agency destroyed public records, which could expand into his client’s injuries and concerns about safety at the jail for those housed there.
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