Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Sheriff T.K. Waters explains shift in jail's health care

 Duval County Sheriff T.K. Waters joins Mayor Donna Deegan, left, and others on Tuesday, July 25, 2023, to announce a new medical provider at the Duval County jail.
Duval County Sheriff T.K. Waters joins Mayor Donna Deegan, left, and others on Tuesday, July 25, 2023, to announce a new medical provider at the Duval County jail.

Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters says a new health care provider at the Duval County jail — selected after a former inmate's death — will better protect the community and inmates.

The sheriff and Mayor Donna Deegan held a news conference late Tuesday to announce that the Sheriff's Office is canceling a $98 million contract with Armor Correctional Health Services. The announcement came hours after The Tributary, a WJCT News partner, revealed the change.

Waters said the jail will switch to a $110 million contract with NaphCare, another private medical provider.

“We are moving off from Armor," Waters said. "(With Naphcare), our contract has things in it that make sure we are safeguarded, our community is safeguarded, and our inmates are safeguarded.”

He did not specify what the safeguards are.

Mayor Donna Deegan concurred with the change in providers.

“This is a decision that we left up to the sheriff," Deegan said. "He took a look at everything that was happening, all the issues that you know very well, and I think he made a decision that he felt was in the very best interests of the citizens of Jacksonville.”

The sheriff did not indicate the reason for the change. But police have been investigating the death of Dexter Eric Barry, 54, in November after a stay at the jail. His family contends he died because he did not get the medication he needed after a heart transplant.

Barry had been arrested on a misdemeanor charge of simple assault and insisted to police officers repeatedly that he needed his medication, The Tributary has reported.

Armor says Barry's medication was ordered but he was discharged before it arrived. The company disputes that he died from the lack of medication.

Armor Correctional Health Services was awarded its initial non-competitive contract with the Sheriff's Office in 2017, before Waters' time in office. But the company has been sued in federal court at least 570 times since its founding in 2004, the Tributary reported.

NaphCare also has a troubled record. At least 550 lawsuits have been filed against NaphCare, according to federal court records, the Tributary reported.

Armor faced criminal charges in Wisconsin because employees at the Milwaukee County jail lied about checking on a man who died of dehydration after water to his cell was shut off, Wisconsin Public Radio reported in early 2018. The Milwaukee District Attorney's Office charged the health services company with seven misdemeanor counts of intentionally falsifying health records.

Armor was convicted last October on those seven counts and one count of inmate abuse or neglect, according to Fox6Milwaukee. Armor is appealing the conviction.

Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years as a radio, television and print reporter in the Jacksonville area, as well as years of broadcast work in the Northeast. You can reach Dan at, (904) 607-2770 or on Twitter at @scanlan_dan.