A photo of the Special Committee of the Council to Review JSO Primary Facilities' first meeting.
The Special Committee of the Council to Review JSO Primary Facilities’ first meeting. [Andrew Pantazi/The Tributary]

Correction: Due to an editor’s error, the initial version of this story said that Sheriff T.K. Waters made the comment to Councilman Michael Boylan. It was Judge Lance Day who did.

The city councilman leading a special committee reviewing the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s facilities said Fourth Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Lance Day told him the jail is “an incident away from a federal court order.”

Councilman Michael Boylan made the announcement at the inaugural meeting of the special committee, which will meet for a year to explore replacing the jail and police headquarters.

Judge Day has not yet responded to a request for comment.

When asked about the comment after the meeting, JSO Corrections Director Kevin Goff said, “I think when you have any type of incident or any type of conditions and you’re not taking steps to improve those conditions than that may open it up.”

Goff said the department is taking those appropriate steps, including by asking for a new jail.

Federal courts sometimes rule that jail facilities violate inmates’ constitutional rights, sometimes after lawsuits by inmates and sometimes after investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice.

In 1975, a federal court ruled that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s previous jail’s conditions were so brutal that it violated the U.S. Constitution.

A judge at the time wrote that “the overall environment of the inmate housing areas of the Duval County Jail gave one the psychological feeling of being trapped in a dungeon.”

That order led the Sheriff’s Office to reduce its jail population, and eventually, the Sheriff’s Office built the present jail, which opened in 1991.

Recently, jail conditions have come under scrutiny after The Tributary reported the annual number of deaths tripled after the Sheriff’s Office privatized its medical care, reaching an average of about 13 deaths per year.

At the committee’s first meeting, Council President Ron Salem asked for the committee to investigate the jail’s medical care, including the results of privatizing health care.

Corrections Director Goff said opening a new jail will improve all aspects of inmate care.

Kelly Frazier, President of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, said “It is reprehensible that the Duval County Jail is being mismanaged such that the Chief Judge of Florida’s 4th Circuit Lance Day indicated that jail is ‘an incident away from a federal court order.’ We must not only improve conditions in the jail and prevent further deaths, but also reduce the need for people to be in jail in the first place.”

Recently, Waters has also shaken up the jail‘s leadership. Goff is new to his position and has been in it about a month. He took over from former Corrections Director Tammy Morris, who had been at the department for 32 years.

She left about a month ago along with Ruben Bryant, a former a chief in the corrections department. Health Services Compliance Manager Paul Acedera also resigned a few weeks earlier, on June 26, citing “personal reasons.”

An updated organization chart dated Saturday showed Programs and Transitional Services Chief Warren Calloway has also left the department.

Listen: What Councilman Boylan had to say about the potential of a federal court order

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...