Florida Opens Investigation Into Duval County Jail Medical Provider

The Florida Department of Management Services opened an investigation into Armor Correctional Services after the company failed to report that they were convicted in the October 2022 death of a Milwaukee inmate.

This comes a week after The Tributary asked the department why Armor was not on its list of condemned vendors. Florida law prohibits public agencies from entering into contracts with businesses that have been convicted of a public entity offense.

The City of Jacksonville renewed its contract with the company in November 2022. The original contract was signed in October 2017.

A reporter asked the city’s procurement department if the city knew about the company’s conviction. However, a city spokesperson using an anonymous city email intervened, telling the reporter not to contact individual employees.

A spokesperson later confirmed that the city was unaware of Armor’s November conviction. Asked if news of the conviction will affect the current contract, the spokesperson said: “We encourage all of our contract managers to review their supplier’s performance against the terms of their contract.”

Local civil rights attorney Andrew Bonderud, who represents the family of a heart transplant recipient who died in the Duval County jail last year, has called on city leaders to “act now.”

“This risks becoming a contagion, a financial liability, if the city doesn’t step in to make desperately needed changes to the way the jail is run,” he said. “The sheriff’s office is responsible for jail operations, but the city is responsible for paying any liability that arises from jail incidents.”

Armor was convicted of the death of Terrill Thomas in the Milwaukee County Jail in 2016.

Thomas, 38, was found dead of dehydration on April 24, 2016, after spending a week in his cell without water, according to local news reports. His death was ruled a homicide.

The company was found guilty on October 11, 2022, of neglecting the residents of a correctional facility and falsifying health care records.

“It is extremely rare to prosecute a corporation. However, such prosecution is warranted in particularly egregious circumstances,” Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said in a news release after the conviction was announced. “Armor Correctional betrayed the trust of the people of Milwaukee County by not only neglecting Mr. Thomas and others, but also by attempting to hide the neglect by falsifying medical records.”

Armor Correctional has been sued in federal court at least 370 times between the agency’s creation in 2005 and 2018. Those lawsuits range from allegations such as medical malpractice to wrongful death to employment issues. Seventy-seven lawsuits were filed the year Jacksonville signed its first contract.

In the seven years prior to Armor’s contract, 38 people died in custody at the Duval County Jail, according to public records. In the six years since the company took over, at least 65 deaths have been reported, an increase of 71% in less time. Those deaths include people who were not given medication and who died by suicide or physical trauma, according to autopsy reports reviewed by The Tributary.

The company is likely to be sued by the surviving family of Dexter Barry, a heart transplant recipient who died in November 2022 after he did not receive his anti-rejection drugs while in the Duval County jail for two days.

Jail staff processing Dexter Barry’s admission noted his medications were “rush” and verified the medications with the Walmart pharmacy Barry used, but staff never administered the medications.

Barry was arrested on November 18. He spent two days in jail and was released after posting $503 bail. He died three days later.

A private pathologist hired by Barry’s family confirmed that he died because his body rejected the heart. The pathologist said he did not feel medically qualified to connect Barry’s body rejecting his heart to the two days he spent in jail without taking his medication.

However, Dr. Maya Guglin, an Indiana cardiologist on the board of the American College of Cardiology, said organ transplant recipients must take anti-rejection drugs because their bodies view the new organ as an invasion that must be fought.

“If you just come off those medications, eventually everyone will reject that organ,” he previously told the Tributary.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has declined to answer questions about Barry, citing an administrative review of his death, which was opened after The Tributary sent questions to the department about Barry’s death.