Duval County jail’s medical provider, Armor Correctional Services, said in a statement on Friday that staff gave “quality medical care” to a heart transplant recipient who died after not receiving his anti-rejection medications while jailed.
Dexter Barry spent two days in jail without his medications, according to his family’s attorney, Andrew Bonderud. He died three days after he was released.
JSO arrested Barry in November after an argument with his neighbor. He told the arresting officer, jail medical officials and a judge that he needed to take his anti-rejection medications, according to records obtained by The Tributary. Records also show medical staff called Barry’s pharmacy to confirm his medications, but staff did not give him the anti-rejection medicine.
A spokesperson from Armor Correctional, the for-profit company that runs the jail’s health care services, said in a statement that an internal “investigation of the clinical care received by the detainee while in custody at the jail has found that our clinicians followed protocol and delivered quality medical care. HIPAA laws prevent us from releasing any further information.”
The Tributary asked why Barry was not given his anti-rejection medication but a response was not immediately received.
A private pathologist hired by Barry’s family confirmed he died because his body rejected the heart. The pathologist said he didn’t feel medically qualified to connect Barry’s body rejecting his heart with the two days he spent in jail without taking his medications.
However, Dr. Maya Guglin, an Indiana cardiologist on the board at the American College of Cardiology, said organ transplant recipients have to take anti-rejection medications because their bodies view the new organ as an invasion that must be fought off.
“If you just drop those medications, everyone is eventually going to reject that organ,” she told the Tributary earlier.
On Thursday, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said the agency “has administratively reviewed specific instances involving the care provided by Armor, and we have also asked that Armor conduct their own in-house review in light of recent events.”
“The contract between the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Armor Health, a third-party medical care provider vendor, was entered into under a previous administration,” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Officer Christian Hancock said in an email. “After Sheriff Waters took office on November 20, 2022, he became fully involved in every aspect of the agency, including the day-to-day operations involving Armor and its medical care of inmates. As a result, Sheriff Waters and the members of his Staff responsible for the safety and welfare of the inmate population began working with Armor personnel to improve processes and resolve challenges that were brought to their attention.”
“… Sheriff Waters is committed to continuing to ensure every inmate receives all necessary medical and mental health care while in the custody of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.”
Outside of Thursday’s statement about JSO’s contract with Armor, the office has refused to answer questions about Barry, citing an administrative review of his death, which was opened after The Tributary sent the department questions about Barry’s death.
The Tributary also learned on Thursday that the Florida Department of Management Services opened an investigation into Armor. The company failed to report to the state that it was convicted in the death of a Milwaukee inmate in October 2022. Florida law prohibits public agencies from signing contracts with companies that have been convicted of a public entity crime.
Armor said Friday that “the incident in Milwaukee referenced in the media is currently being disputed in the court system.” Court records show the company is appealing the conviction.
The City of Jacksonville renewed its contract with Armor in November 2022. The original contract was signed in October 2017.
A spokesperson confirmed the city was unaware of Armor’s conviction in November. Asked if the news of the conviction will affect the current contract, the spokesperson said, “we encourage all of our contract managers to review their vendor’s performance as to the terms of their contract.”
The city did not name who was responsible for reviewing Armor’s multi-million dollar contract with the city. Armor gets paid a minimum of $18 million a year under its contract, with more money coming in depending on how many inmates the jail houses.
Armor Correctional has been sued in federal court at least 370 times between the creation of the agency in 2005 to 2018. Those lawsuits range from accusations such as medical malpractice to wrongful death and 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 Duval County jail custody, according to public records. In the six years since the company took over, at least 65 deaths have been reported – a 71% increase over less time. Those deaths include people who were not given medications and who died by suicide or physical trauma, according to autopsy reports reviewed by The Tributary.