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County ditching jail healthcare provider following inmate deaths

Arlington County is negotiating a contract with a new medical care provider for the county jail — its most recent move in the wake of a series of inmate deaths.

The decision, announced yesterday (Monday), comes the same month that a man, who appears to be connected to the current provider, appeared in Arlington County General District Court on charges related to the police investigation into the in-custody death of Darryl Becton last year.

Also this month, a man named Clyde Spencer became the sixth reported in-custody death in six years.

The effort to find a new medical provider will cut short Arlington’s contract with Corizon Correctional Health, which was renewed last year through 2025. Corizon will continue to provide services until the new provider is slated to take over, on Monday, Nov. 15. Because the negotiations are ongoing, the Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail, couldn’t reveal the name of the proposed new provider.

The county says it made the decision “after careful consideration” to ensure the medical safety of inmates.

“The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office is committed to providing the highest level of medical services to those in our custody and I take each individuals care very seriously,” Sheriff Beth Arthur said in a statement. “How we care for those remanded to our custody is a priority. We are committed to having a vendor that provides the level of medical service that reflects the high expectations of not only myself, but the Arlington community.”

Corizon was not immediately available to respond to a request for comment.

Corizon has been sued multiple times across the nation for inmate deaths allegedly connected to inadequate care. In Arlington, it appears that local officials are investigating whether the way Becton was cared for in jail played a role in his death. The state medical examiner’s office ruled his cause of death to be hypertensive cardiovascular disease — caused by sustained high blood pressure — complicated by opiate withdrawal.

Nearly one year after Becton’s death, the Commonwealth’s Attorney issued an arrest warrant for a man who was charged with falsifying a patient record, a misdemeanor.

Although the office couldn’t add further details about the man at the time, a D.C. resident by the same name lists his occupation as a licensed practical nurse and his employer as Corizon Health, according to a LinkedIn profile.

And if the man who was charged is indeed employed by Corizon, his case is the second in which a Corizon correctional nurse has been charged with a crime involving an inmate in Arlington.

Another nurse was charged in 2014 with misdemeanor sexual battery and found guilty in Arlington General District Court. In an appeal to the Circuit Court, the inmate and the nurse reached a deal that allowed the nurse to avoid a jail time, according to Maj. Susie Doyel, the then-spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office.

The Arlington branch of the NAACP, which called for an independent investigation into Becton’s death last year, issued a statement after the news of the new medical provider was released.

“Although the Sheriff’s Office is seeking a new medical contractor, the issue remains that there have been six in-custody deaths in six years, as reported by the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office,” President Julius “J.D.” Spain, Sr. said. “The Arlington Branch NAACP’s position remains firm in seeking justice for those who have died while in the custody of the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office.”

“Ultimately, the Arlington County Sheriff, the Command Staff, and Sheriff’s Office personnel are responsible for the health, care, and safety of the individuals in their custody,” Spain’s statement continued. “The Arlington Branch NAACP will continue to seek justice to find all who are responsible, complicit, and or negligent in the deaths of those in-custody and hold them accountable.”

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