An employee of the Arlington County Public Defender’s Office appears to have been duped into smuggling drugs into the local jail.
An apparent misunderstanding over recent changes to the delivery of personal mail could have contributed to the advocate’s arrest, according to her boss, Chief Public Defender Brad Haywood.
Last month, a 32-year-old woman was arrested and charged with unauthorized delivery in jail in connection with an offense that allegedly occurred in mid-February, per court records. The employee reportedly delivered papers to the jail in her capacity as an investigator for the Public Defender’s Office, but the papers — unbeknownst to her — had been soaked in drugs. The delivery also circumvented a new jail policy.
The case was transferred to the Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney to prosecute.
“We had to get a special prosecutor for that because of a potential conflict of interest,” Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti said. “Loudoun handled that and it would be inappropriate for me to have been involved in the decision making.”
Two sources confirmed to ARLnow that the court quickly granted a prosecutor’s motion to dismiss the charges. This was done on the grounds that she lacked knowledge that she delivered contraband to the jail. Loudoun’s Commonwealth’s Attorney did not respond to requests for comment before publication time.
Charges are still pending for another woman in connection to this case. Cassandra Bertrand, 30, was arrested and charged with the distribution of and conspiracy to distribute Schedule I/II drugs. She is also charged with two counts of delivering drugs to a prisoner.
When asked about this case, a spokeswoman for the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, which oversees the jail, provided the names and charges for the two defendants but declined to comment further.
“To ensure the integrity of the ongoing criminal investigation and prosecution, additional details are not available for release,” spokeswoman Amy Meehan said.
Closing the mail drug smuggling loophole
Like detention facilities around the country, the Arlington County Detention Facility is combatting a relatively new way of smuggling drugs inside: mail.
Personal correspondence is dipped in or sprayed with a synthetic drug and sent to the inmate, who smokes it or tears up the paper and sells bits to others.
This method has been around for several years, per a 2016 Washington Post article, but a recent spate of such smuggling attempts have received media attention this year. There were instances in Chicago, in Massachusetts and on Riker’s Island in New York City, where love letters and cards from children were soaked in fentanyl.
In the Arlington case, law enforcement sources tell ARLnow the letter was coated in a synthetic cannabinoid called nicknamed “K2” or “Spice.” The chemical name, ADB-Butinaca, is identified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a Schedule I drug.
“The jail is aware this is a new trend and as of February 1st, we use a third-party digital mail center to scan all incoming, personal mail which is then forwarded to the inmates’ tablets,” Meehan said.
Per a notice she shared with ARLnow, all mail addressed to inmates must be sent to a post office box in Missouri. The policy for legal mail, however, has not changed.
Legal mail is a broad category that can encompass papers that — to the Sheriff’s Office — look an awful lot like personal mail. In this case, printed copies of photos were shared with the client because they would be entered into the record in the inmate’s upcoming court appearances.
The photos, which are called “mitigation materials” in the legal community, are intended to humanize the person facing a potential sentence. But it may not have looked that way to the Sheriff’s Office.
All three candidates looking to replace Sheriff Beth Arthur, who retired at the end of last year, say they want to end solitary confinement.
This unifying policy position surfaced during a forum hosted by the nonprofit Offender Aid and Restoration last Thursday.
Arlington County police officer James Herring, retired sheriff lieutenant Wanda Younger and Acting Sheriff Jose Quiroz are seeking the nomination of the Arlington County Democratic Committee in the June primary.
Although unified on running a “safe and progressive” jail, including by ending solitary confinement, they had different plans for improving the physical safety and mental well-being of staff and inmates.
“We’re definitely going to remove [solitary confinement],” said Quiroz, the son of Honduran immigrants who grew up in Arlington and joined the Sheriff’s Office 21 years ago after a stint in the Marine Corps. “We’re already reviewing this. It’s not helpful, it’s not healthy and it’s not rehabilitative. It needs to go.”
Herring, a graduate of Arlington Public Schools who was a police officer in D.C.’s Ward 8 before joining the Arlington County Police Department in 2019, said there are better alternatives to the practice.
“There are going to be people who will have to be separated from others because they just will not work well for whatever reason — they might have to be separated for safety reasons — but we absolutely cannot put people in holes and forget about them,” he said. “We need to connect them to mental and medical health care and keep them connected with family.”
Younger, who retired from the Sheriff’s Office after 31 years of service, said solitary confinement exacerbates mental health issues rather than contributing to an individual’s rehabilitation.
“What we need to do is focus on programs to help identify the root causes of why people act in certain ways,” she said, calling for training in trauma-informed care and in understanding common triggers of negative behaviors.
They articulated positions ARLnow previously reported on, regarding well-being in the jail, which saw seven men die while in jail. Six of the inmates were Black, which led the Arlington branch of the NAACP to push for greater transparency from the office and changes to jail operations.
Quiroz says he is bringing in biometric sensors that allow staff to respond to medical emergencies “where seconds and minutes count” and interested in the county assuming control of medical care.
ACSO ditched its former contracted medical care provider in response to a growing number of deaths in the jail, and one inmate has died since the new provider took over.
Herring argued for adding in-house psychiatrists to the existing ranks of therapists and clinicians.
“We still have to ship people across the state to actually see a psychiatrist who does not know them, their community, where they’re from or what their issue is,” he said. “Oftentimes they just load them up with meds and send them back here until they’re tranquilized enough… to carry on, and the cycle repeats.”
Robbery at Pentagon City Mall — “1000 block of S. Hayes Street. At approximately 3:39 p.m. on November 22, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined the male suspect entered the business, allegedly concealed merchandise and attempted to leave without paying. The suspect was then confronted by two loss prevention officers, during which he attempted to push past them. A brief struggle ensued, and the suspect was detained by the loss prevention officers.” [ACPD]
Arrest in Arlington After D.C. Shooting — “A woman is injured after a man shot at her car on Interstate 295 in D.C. on Sunday, police say. The woman was driving on DC-295 at Exit 5C at about 1 a.m. when a man in a white truck with a California license plate shot at her car… Shortly after the incident, at about 1:15 a.m., a car that matched the suspects car’s description was pulled over in the 2300 block of 24th Road S in Arlington.” [NBC 4]
‘Project Winter Cheer’ Seeks Support — “Offender Aid and Restoration is seeking support for its ‘Project Winter Cheer’ initiative, which supports children and families impacted by incarceration during the holiday season… The program aims to provide each child with a $50 gift card, which will be presented along with a note from their parent letting them know that the gift is coming from them and wishing them love during the season.” [Sun Gazette]
It’s Monday — Mostly cloudy and breezy throughout the day. High of 54 and low of 41. Sunrise at 7:07 am and sunset at 4:49 pm. [Weather.gov]
Flickr pool photo by Jeff Vincent
Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur says she will not be seeking reelection next year.
The first female sheriff in Arlington and in the state announced her decision in a statement released this morning. She has presided as Arlington County Sheriff for more than two decades.
“It has been a privilege and an honor to serve the citizens of Arlington County as their Sheriff but after 22+ years as Sheriff and 36 years with the Sheriff’s Office I think it’s time to hang up my spurs,” she said in a statement. “My focus has always been the employees in the Sheriff’s Office and the exceptional work they do each day, the safety and security of the jail/courthouse and ensuring those incarcerated are treated with dignity and respect.”
Arthur started in the Sheriff’s Office in January 1986 as the budget analyst under then-Sheriff James Gondles. In 1988, she was promoted to Director of Administration, overseeing human resources, budgeting, training and IT functions.
The Arlington Circuit Court appointed her Sheriff on July 7, 2000, and she was subsequently elected in a special election that November, per the press release. She was reelected in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. During that time, she joined several organizations, such as the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, where she became the first woman elected president and today serves on its Board of Directors and legislative committee.
Arthur thanked her staff of 298 for the “tireless work they do” to “prepare individuals to have tools and resources to return to their community to be productive members of society.”
She praised them for their Covid response, saying they “worked diligently to adapt policies and practices and they have done an outstanding job.”
Reflecting on her time in office, she expressed pride in how her deputies responded to 9/11. They served as first responders at the Pentagon, provided meals from the jail kitchen and screened delivery trucks.
“I am proud of our Arlington community as we rose to the challenge and embraced each other as one,” she said.
But, she said, her work is also about “those remanded into our care,” which included an average of 272 inmates a night between July 2021 and June 2022.
Her tenure saw upgrades to the inmate library, as well as the launch of the Community Readiness Unit — which provides transition services to inmates and follows them after their release — and work partnership programs, pet therapy and increased partnership with Offender Aid and Restoration, which works with incarcerated individuals in Arlington and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church.
During this time, however, seven men died in as many years while in jail. It’s unclear what caused the uptick, but the Sheriff’s Office previously told ARLnow reasons range from a lack of medical care outside of the jail to drug withdrawal.
The death of Darryl Becton in 2020 in particular sparked increased scrutiny of the jail’s practices, from the Arlington County Board but mostly the Arlington branch of the NAACP, of which Arthur is also a member. After Becton died, the NAACP called for an independent investigation, and this year, after the death of another inmate, Paul Thompson, it escalated this refrain by calling for an investigation by the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
Meanwhile, Becton’s family filed a wrongful death suit this spring and the Virginia’s Jail Review Committee, part of the Board of Local and Regional Jails, conducted its own investigation.
It found evidence suggesting the jail had broken state regulations in Becton’s death, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. After the Sheriff’s Office outlined steps it took — hiring a quality assurance manager, making plans to buy a new medical tracking device, updating health check protocols and changing healthcare providers — the review board concluded that “no further measures are necessary” and closed its investigation.
New grant funding will expand re-entry services for men incarcerated in Arlington County jail as they prepare to return home.
The $750,000 grant, available for three years, comes from the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Local nonprofit Offender Aid and Restoration, which provides 60% of the transition services offered at the Arlington County Detention Facility through the Community Readiness Unit (CRU), applied for the grant in May.
OAR has been heavily involved in the CRU since its inception seven years ago. The organization decided to fundraise to support their existing work and do more, according to Executive Director Elizabeth Jones Valderrama.
The new program “will have major long-term public safety benefits and will provide people coming home with badly needed support,” Valderrama said in a statement. “Research shows that in order to mitigate against the harm and discrimination that impact those who are incarcerated, individuals must have access to robust wraparound programming both before and after release.”
CRU provides daily programming on topics such as parenting, conflict resolution, healthy relationships, entrepreneurship, ethics, social justice, wellness and substance use regulation, she said. OAR also offers job training, therapy and basic Spanish.
Dubbed “Project Second and Fair Chances for Individuals and Families,” the plan includes hiring additional staff and purchasing more resources to improve its offerings. It will allow the nonprofit to work with 40 men nine months prior to their release and up to 18 months after their release.
Valderrama told ARLnow the grant will pay for:
- two new therapeutic staff and additional therapeutic resources.
- a new tool to evaluate participants and identify appropriate therapeutic supports and post-release plan
- a third-party evaluator to gauge participants’ success and identify gaps in the nonprofit’s funding programming
Men who participate in the new program will have access to a range of pre-release services, including:
- risk assessments
- one-on-one reentry coaching and planning
- weekly workshops about subjects like co-parenting, employment retention and conflict resolution
- cognitive-behavioral therapies and psychotherapy
After their release, OAR’s “Project Second and Fair Chances for Individuals and Families” will provide:
- intensive case management
- facilitated support groups
- family support and reunification
- referrals for educational and vocational training
“Currently, OAR follows participants for three months-post release before transitioning them to other partners,” Valderrama tells ARLnow. “The grant will allow OAR to do more for participants, for a longer period of time after release.”
After the money runs out in three years, OAR will need to seek out more funding to sustain the program.
The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office said it is thrilled to keep working with OAR and expanding resources for incarcerated individuals.
“Most of those incarcerated will return to our community and my staff and I are committed to offering programs and additional services to help their transition and ensure their success,” said Sheriff Beth Arthur in a statement to ARLnow.
In her statement, Valderrama said the grant will mostly serve to uplift Black men as they transition back to their communities.
“Seventy percent of OAR’s reentry participants are Black, compared to only 4-12% of the Arlington area, which reflects the institutional racism and anti-Blackness pervading our country and the criminal legal system,” Valderrama said.
Additionally, 80% live in poverty and 40% experience homelessness after their release, according to OAR.
A man who was charged in connection to the death of Darryl Becton in Arlington County jail in 2020 has been found not guilty.
Antoine Smith was charged in September 2021 with the misdemeanor of falsifying a patient record.
Smith worked for Corizon Correctional Health, the jail-based medical provider at the time of Becton’s death, which has been sued multiple times across the nation for inmate deaths allegedly connected to inadequate care.
When reached by phone, Smith’s attorney declined to comment on the outcome of the case.
The charge was levied against Smith as part of a year-long investigation into the circumstances surrounding Becton’s death at the Arlington County Detention Facility.
In the wake of his death, the Arlington branch of the NAACP called for an independent investigation. The jail, meanwhile, cut ties with Corizon and updated its protocols.
One month later, Becton’s family filed a $10-million wrongful death lawsuit against Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur, the elected official who oversees the jail and the Sheriff’s Office, as well as Corizon and four medical staffers, including Smith.
The suit alleges that medical staff did not treat and properly monitor Becton’s drug withdrawal symptoms or high blood pressure, despite being aware of his condition and the risks associated with it.
The lawyer for the case did not return a request for comment on how the not-guilty verdict for Smith impacts the lawsuit.
Becton was the fifth person — and the fourth Black man — to die in the facility while in custody in five years, according to the Arlington branch of the NAACP. Since then, the number of people who have died in the detention facility has risen to seven, prompting the Arlington County Board to pledge greater oversight over how the jail is managed.
For the NAACP, the charges against Smith were never its focus.
“Even had Mr. Smith been found guilty of that charge, it would not have answered the central question: why did Mr. Becton die?” Arlington NAACP President Julius “JD” Spain told ARLnow. “The NAACP remains committed to helping our entire community understand how this avoidable tragedy happened, so we can work together to ensure it never happens again.
“We will continue to advocate for a better public safety system that reduces the reliance on prisons as means of solving social problems, and advances effective law enforcement,” Spain continued.
The verdict does raise a host of questions about who supervises jail-based healthcare providers and their employees, and where was that supervisor when Becton died, Spain said.
“So, finally, why did it take this unnecessary and tragic death, seven in seven years, to ultimately cause the Sheriff’s office to find a new contractor?” Spain said. “To date, no one has been held accountable. Is it a toxic work environment, fear of retaliation, or improper management of personnel? Every day that passes without an answer, trust and confidence in leaders and the justice system erode.”
The jail has taken some corrective steps to improve its treatment of inmates, including hiring a quality assurance manager, planning to buy a new medical tracking device and updating health check protocols.
These actions led Virginia’s Jail Review Committee, part of the Board of Local and Regional Jails, to conclude that “no further measures are necessary” and close its investigation into the Arlington jail last month. Its investigation found evidence suggesting the jail had broken state regulations in Becton’s death, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
From Philadelphia to Los Angeles to nearby Fairfax County, and here in Arlington, prosecutors running on criminal justice reform platforms were elected in a wave.
But since they’ve taken office, some have questioned whether their approach to crime is too soft. A recall election in San Francisco ousted its chief prosecutor, and last year, Arlington’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti also faced a recall campaign, though it never seriously threatened her tenure in office.
Since she took office in January 2020, some types of crime have increased. At the same time, the pandemic pushed her, defense attorneys and the sheriff’s office to reduce the number of people jailed, and staffing shortages led to a cut in some police department services, such as follow-up investigations on property crimes it deemed unsolvable.
Dehghani-Tafti tells ARLnow that when crime is up, the “tough-on-crime crowd” says to “be tougher” and when it’s down, they say to keep jailing people because “it’s working.” But she believes progressive policies and expanding diversion programs for nonviolent offenders can better help them stay on the right side of the law.
She emphasized that her office takes violent crime seriously. The violent crime rate in Arlington was below the state and national averages in 2021. Meanwhile, police officers working with Dehghani-Tafti generally approve of the way her office pursues violent crime charges, Arlington Police Beneficiary Association President Rich Conigliaro tells ARLnow.
Fewer prosecutions of nonviolent crimes
Although the police don’t believe Arlington has a major crime issue, the department has seen more crime sprees in the last few years, Conigliaro said. There was an overall 8.5% increase in property crime in 2021 compared to 2019, according to ACPD’s annual report.
Police have dealt with cases where the defendant had committed multiple property crimes, such as burglaries, in jurisdictions across Virginia. In one such case, a Maryland man, who was out on bail for charges in Fairfax County, was arrested in Arlington on similar charges, including stealing and spitting on an officer after his arrest.
After that incident, Dehghani-Tafti’s office dropped two charges and downgraded a felony charge into a misdemeanor as a plea agreement. His 180-day jail sentence in Arlington was suspended and he was extradited to Maryland to face prior charges there, according to court documents.
Dehghani-Tafti’s office has downgraded felony charges into misdemeanors for cases that “normally would not have seen that level of a plea bargain being agreed upon” on multiple occasions, Conigliaro said. Detectives are concerned with this trend, he added.
Brad Haywood, the chief public defender in the county, also said Dehghani-Tafti’s office seemed less likely to press felony charges where a misdemeanor charge may apply, such as with nonviolent or minor property and drug cases, he said.
Haywood said her office seems more willing to give people with behavioral issues a second chance by ensuring they receive treatments instead of jail time, unlike her predecessor Theo Stamos. Stamos, who is now working in the office of Attorney General Jason Miyares, declined to comment for this article.
Generally, there have been fewer felony indictments under Dehghani-Tafti compared to Stamos, according to performance data gathered in the latest proposed budget from the Commonwealth’s Attorney office. The number of indictments issued by the Circuit Court decreased 37% from 713 in fiscal year 2019 to 449 in fiscal year 2021. The number of sentencing events dropped by almost 57% from 354 in fiscal year 2019 to 153 in fiscal year 2021.
The number of criminal misdemeanor cases that appeared before the General District Court also decreased by 23.4% from 3,476 in fiscal year 2019 to 2,662 in fiscal year 2021.
In Dehghani-Tafti’s view, prisons cannot effectively rehabilitate an offender. She cited a meta study published by the University of Chicago Press last year that showed incarcerations are less effective in reducing recidivism.
Dehghani-Tafti believes the biggest change she brought to Arlington was creating new diversion programs for adults. Her office is taking part in the Motion for Justice Project, which connects participants to social services and treatments, as well as partnering with the nonprofit Offender Aid and Restoration to provide diversion programs.
“I came in guided by the idea that safety and justice are not opposite values, they are rather complementary values,” Dehghani-Tafti said. “And that we can treat people like people and crime like crime.”
The Arlington County Detention Facility has implemented several measures in response to the death of an inmate in 2020.
The jail has hired a quality assurance manager, planned to buy a new medical tracking device and has updated health check protocols, according to a document that summarizes corrective measures it has taken.
A wrongful death lawsuit filed by Darryl Becton’s family alleges that medical staff at the Arlington lockup did not treat and properly monitor Becton’s drug withdrawal symptoms or high blood pressure, despite being aware of his condition and the risks associated with it.
The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office took a number of preventive measures following the death. One was a special directive to instruct staff to place all inmates self-reporting or expecting to experience withdrawals in the Medical Unit of the jail, according to the summary document obtained by ARLnow.
The office also hired a quality assurance manager in April, whose job is to oversee all contractors providing medical, food, phone and other services to people held in custody. Cristen Bowers is currently the manager, according to a press release.
The jail cut ties with its medical provider Corizon in October 2021 and signed a new contract with Mediko that was finalized in February.
Other actions taken include directing staff to check the vitals of those going through withdrawals every four hours instead of eight. The office is also planning to buy a medical device system that will “track heart rates and alert workstations” if an inmate’s heart rate is abnormal. The office plans to have the purchase funded in during the current fiscal year, which runs through next July.
These actions led Virginia’s Jail Review Committee, part of the Board of Local and Regional Jails, to conclude that “no further measures are necessary” and close its investigation into the Arlington jail last month. Its investigation has found evidence suggesting the Arlington jail had broken state regulations in Becton’s death, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
However, not all of the jail’s remedial actions were made public. Two policies made in the immediate aftermath of Becton’s death are redacted in the summary obtained by ARLnow, with the Sheriff’s Office stating disclosure “would jeopardize the safety or security” of law enforcement officers, the public and buildings.
The Times-Dispatch requested documents from the board related to the investigation and the corrected action plans but release of the action plans were denied, and other documents provided were redacted, according to the Times-Dispatch. The board’s executive director told the paper it wanted to “protect the ‘privacy’ of people who die in jails, and their families.”
In response, Becton’s family, who is suing the sheriff and Corizon, along with individual Sheriff’s Office and Corizon employees, called for the board to release the details of its decisions and the jail’s corrective action plan, according to a statement from NAACP’s Arlington branch.
By not publishing its suggestions for improvement with the public or “the larger jailed and incarceration community,” the board is “not allowing transparency in the process,” Becton family’s attorney Mark Krudys told ARLnow.
He says the family did not know about the content of the board’s investigation or the jail’s action plan.
The Becton family’s lawsuit has now moved to U.S. District Court upon a request from Sheriff Elizabeth Arthur and a deputy who was also sued, according to a docket report. In October 2021, a Corizon nurse was charged with falsifying patient records by the Commonwealth’s Attorney Office. The criminal case is still ongoing.
Despite the corrective actions, another Arlington jail inmate died in custody this past February. Of the seven people to have died in custody at the jail over the past seven years, six have been Black, according to the NAACP.
Arlington Ranks in New ‘Best’ Lists — “Niche, a platform for community and school ratings, released its 2022 Best Places to Live rankings this week, and Arlington and its neighborhoods ranked high on the lists. This year, Arlington County ranked No. 3 in Best Cities to Raise a Family in America, No. 4 in Best Cities to Live in America, and No. 5 for Best Cities for Young Professionals in America.” [Patch]
NAACP Asks for Civil Rights Investigation — “The Arlington County, Virginia, jail is the subject of a civil rights complaint by the Arlington Branch of the NAACP. The civil rights agency wrote a letter Monday to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division asking for an investigation into the patterns and practices at the Arlington County Detention Facility.” [WTOP]
Ebbin Bill Heads to Governor — “A proposal to repeal a Virginia law that requires adult children to be financially responsible for their parents is headed to the governor’s desk. Senator Adam Ebbin, who is behind the bill, says while it is rarely enforced it can be misused and abused.” [Fox 5]
It’s Friday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 71 and low of 47. Sunrise at 7:16 am and sunset at 7:19 pm. [Weather.gov]
The family of a man who died in Arlington County jail in 2020 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit blaming his death on willfully negligent care by the county and nurses.
Darryl Becton, 46, died in the Arlington County Detention Facility on Oct. 1, 2020. A state coroner determined he died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease, which is caused by sustained high blood pressure, complicated by opiate withdrawal.
The $10-million lawsuit filed in Arlington County Circuit Court names Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur, the elected official who oversees the jail and the Sheriff’s Office, and Corizon Correctional Health, the jail-based medical provider at the time, as defendants. Four medical staff, including one who was arrested in connection to Becton’s death, and a sheriff’s deputy are also named.
The Sheriff’s Office declined to comment. Corizon did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.
Becton, a D.C. resident, was booked on Sept. 29, 2020, on an alleged probation violation following his conviction on a felony “unauthorized use of a motor vehicle” charge in 2019.
The lawsuit says his death two days later — after succumbing to symptoms of heroin and fentanyl withdrawal and untreated high blood pressure — “was wholly avoidable.”
The lawsuit claims Becton told staff when he was booked that he had an opiate addiction and high blood pressure. These became obvious, the suit says, in the early hours of Oct. 1, when his blood pressure registered 191/102 — which would require immediate medical attention — and he began experiencing withdrawal symptoms, including vomiting, nausea, body aches, tremors and diarrhea.
The lawsuit alleges that, despite his obvious illness, medical staff did not properly address his withdrawal symptoms nor treat him for high blood pressure, while deputies assigned to periodically check in on him did not take note of his worsening symptoms.
“From 6 a.m. until 4:16 p.m., he was essentially left uncared for, untreated and alone,” said Mark Krudys, the attorney for the family during a noon press conference outside the jail today (Friday). “He was being casually monitored by the nursing and outright ignored by correctional staff. This did not have to occur. People don’t die from these conditions if they’re taken to medical [facilities] and receive the medical care they need.”
This is not the first time Corizon has been sued for inmate deaths allegedly connected to inadequate care. And Becton’s death, combined with the arrest of one nurse possibly connected to Corizon, prompted the county to cut ties with the provider and select a new provider, Mediko.
The lawsuit also alleges Becton was denied his civil rights in not receiving adequate medical care.
Many family members were present gave emotional tributes to Becton at the press conference.
His cousin, Janae Pugh, said it is every family’s “worst nightmare” to hear that a family member has died in the custody of people who are supposed to “protect and serve” the community.
“To stand here before you and expose my family’s suffering and pain is heartbreaking but very necessary,” she said. “The people in charge need to be held accountable for these preventable deaths. We are here today to seek justice and bring awareness to Darryl’s case.”
Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti says he has lots of questions for the county’s criminal justice system after an inmate died in the county jail two weeks ago.
On Saturday, he released a statement committing to figuring out why Paul Thompson, a homeless man arrested for trespassing at a place from which he was previous banned, died in the Arlington County Detention Center earlier this month. He also committed to avoiding preventable deaths at the jail.
“Typically, a number of state agencies — the Magistrate, the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, and the Public Defender’s office and our Judges — along with the Arlington County Police Department and the Department of Human Services all have a role in cases like Mr. Thompson’s,” he said. “In my oversight role as a Board Member, I share in the responsibility to make sure we are doing everything we can.”
On Feb. 1, Thompson became the seventh man in seven years to die in the custody of the Sheriff’s Office. Six of the seven have been Black.
The Arlington branch of the NAACP has been sounding the alarm on in-custody deaths in part because of their disproportionate impact on men of color since the 2020 death of Darryl Becton.
“We are failing men of color [and] we are failing people who are homeless in this community,” said Juliet Hiznay, an education and disability rights attorney and a member of the NAACP, during the County Board meeting on Saturday.
Last fall, the ongoing investigation into Becton’s death led to charges filed against a man police say falsified a patient record. It also prompted the Sheriff’s Office to change its jail-based medical provider, which was finalized within 24 hours of Thompson’s death.
And now, the death of Thompson — who did not have a criminal history but did suffer from a mental illness, Sheriff Beth Arthur told WTOP — is prompting greater scrutiny from the Arlington County Board.
“There will be follow-up in the coming weeks through the County Manager, and I personally will be following up in the short term,” de Ferranti tells ARLnow. “We do have to focus on solutions, and that’s why, I’ll be engaging with staff and subject-matter experts on this.”
Thompson’s death is being investigated by Arlington police and an autopsy is still pending, the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said today (Monday).
De Ferranti said he looks forward to answers to the following questions.