A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office cruiser parked outside the Police Memorial Building. [Andrew Pantazi/The Tributary]

Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters shook up his senior command staff over the last month, asking for the resignations or demotions of three jail officials after The Tributary’s reporting uncovered unsafe medical conditions in the Duval jail, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The Tributary’s reporting did not link any of the problems directly to jail staff but to the city’s contracts with Armor Correctional Health Services to run the jail health care. Since Armor’s hiring, jail deaths have tripled. 

The Sheriff’s Office has not responded to The Tributary’s request for comment about the leadership change.

Over the last week, Corrections Director Tammy Morris and a chief in the corrections department, Ruben Bryant, left the agency after being asked to accept a demotion. Health Services Compliance Manager Paul Acedera also resigned a few weeks earlier, on June 26, citing “personal reasons.” The Tributary is still waiting for copies of Morris’ and Byrant’s resignation letters.

According to an organizational chart updated Saturday, Kevin Goff, the former human-resources chief, will replace Morris as corrections director; Joshua Benoit, the former programs and transitional services chief, will now serve as the prisons chief. 

“It seems to me that the sheriff is doing grave disservice to the men and women at the sheriff’s office if he intends to blame Armor’s failures on anyone other than Armor itself,” said Jacksonville civil rights attorney Andrew Bonderud.

Christina Kittle, an organizer with Florida Rising, said firing jail officials is not enough, more work needs to be done to solve issues there.

“That’s kind of the least you can do if someone is not performing their job correctly,” she said. “That’s not accountability, that’s just a natural consequence of not doing your job duty.”

For the last two months, The Tributary has uncovered problems with the jail’s health care.

Last November, a man who had received a heart transplant begged for his anti-rejection medicine to no avail. Days after his release, he died due to an auto-immune attack on his heart. Bonderud has been hired by the man’s family.

Before signing a $98-million contract renewal with Armor, other sheriff’s offices across the state had lambasted the company for its medical care, The Tributary previously found. Sheriffs accused the company of misleading public officials, skirting responsibility and providing inadequate health care.

The Tributary also revealed that Armor had previously been convicted after the death of an inmate elsewhere, a month before Jacksonville renewed its five-year contract at a cost of $98 million. Florida law prohibits public agencies from signing contracts with convicted companies. A state department has since opened an investigation into Armor.

On June 1, a city spokesperson confirmed officials were unaware of Armor’s conviction in November. Asked then 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.”

At the time, the city did not name who was responsible for reviewing Armor’s contract.

Acedera was hired under Sheriff Mike Williams in August 2017, two months before the city signed its first contract with Armor. Then-Health Services Chief George Pratt said Acedera was responsible for ensuring “contract compliance,” in an email at the time.

Clarification: One of the employees pushed out, Ruben Bryant, was most recently the chief of programs and transitional services in the corrections department. Earlier this year, he had been the prisons chief. An earlier version of this story suggested he was the prisons chief when he resigned.

Nichole Manna reports on the criminal justice system in Jacksonville. She has previously covered criminal justice at newspapers in Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina and Tennessee, but is originally...