The Duval County jail.

Lawmakers call for federal investigation of Duval jail

Published on August 23, 2023 at 11:17 am

Two Jacksonville legislators called on the Department of Justice to investigate Duval County’s jail after The Tributary found the death rate among inmates tripled after the jail privatized medical care.

The letter from state Rep. Angie Nixon and state Sen. Tracie Davis cited that reporting, urging the department to investigate “potential violations of federal law by those involved.”

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“No matter who we are, or what we look like, everyone is entitled to due process of the law,” Nixon said in a statement Tuesday. “Incarcerated or not, every person must be treated humanely, with decency and respect, and that includes access to medical care and having your basic needs met.”

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office have not returned requests for comment.

Four U.S. senators criticized the Department of Justice last year for not doing more to hold jails accountable for their conditions in New York, Los Angeles and Miami.

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In July, The Tributary found at least a dozen people who said they didn’t get their prescriptions while jailed between December and June. The Tributary also found that deaths in the Duval County jail tripled after Armor Correctional Health Services started handling health care — with about four deaths per year from 2012 to 2017 and about 13 deaths per year since 2018.

So far this year, 11 people have died.

Before hiring Armor in October 2017, the Duval County jail averaged four deaths per year. Since then, the jail has averaged 13 deaths per year. | Data from Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Medical Examiner’s Office. Analysis by Nichole Manna, The Tributary

According to the Jacksonville medical examiner, three people overdosed, two died by suicide and at least four experienced a medical episode before dying. The cause for one death has been undetermined. 

Armor also faces a state investigation after it failed to report a criminal conviction in the death of a Milwaukee inmate last year. The Florida Department of Management Services, which said it began the investigation after The Tributary contacted it, has not said if that investigation is continuing.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office terminated its contract with Armor only “after a high profile death and much media scrutiny,” Davis and Nixon’s letter states. 

NaphCare — another private medical provider with its own history of alleged mistreatment of inmates — will take over on Sept. 1 with a five-year, $110 million contract. The city did not open a competitive bidding process, and Sheriff T.K. Waters said Naphcare came “very highly recommended” by the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office. 

“Sadly, private companies see human beings as generators of profit to help their bottom line and nothing more,” Nixon said in a statement. “This is wrong, and it must end. JSO has a duty to protect our community — including their officers and the people in their charge who are their responsibility. Anything less is unacceptable.”

Davis said the pattern of failure to care for people is abhorrent and irresponsible. 

“The actions by Armor warrant investigation and correction,” she said in a statement. “Regardless of how a person ended up in the penal system, they have basic rights — that should never be forgotten or ignored by the people overseeing them.”

Armor Correctional Health Services’ role at the jail has been scrutinized since The Tributary reported in May on the death of Dexter Barry, a 54-year-old heart transplant recipient who begged police for his anti-rejection medication. He died days after his release from the jail.

This story is published through a partnership between Jacksonville Today and The Tributary

author image Nichole Manna is The Tributary’s criminal justice reporter. You can reach her at or on Twitter at @NicholeManna.

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