Arlington County to end contract with jail health care provider after an inmate died The death was the sixth at the Arlington jail over the last six years.
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Arlington County to end contract with jail health care provider after an inmate died

The Arlington County jail. Ron Cogswell/Flickr / https://n.pr/318tiFZ hide caption

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Ron Cogswell/Flickr / https://n.pr/318tiFZ

Arlington County is terminating its contract with the company that provided healthcare services in its jail, according to a press release from the county sheriff. A new, unnamed provider will begin providing healthcare services in the jail on Nov. 15.

"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," said County Sheriff Beth Arthur in the announcement.

Arthur's office would not comment further on which company would take over the contract, other than to say it "worked through the County Purchasing process."

Corizon Health has been the jail's healthcare contractor since 2006, and in 2020 signed a contract renewal with the county that could have lasted until 2025. Earlier this month, a man named Antoine Smith, whose LinkedIn profile lists him as a licensed practical nurse for Corizon Health, was arraigned in Arlington General District Court on a charge of falsifying patient medical records.

Corizon Health did not return a request for comment. The company has been the subject of multiple lawsuits outlining negligence in providing healthcare to incarcerated people. In 2015, the D.C. Council rejected a $66 million contract for Corizon to provide healthcare in the D.C. Jail, citing concerns over care for inmates in other facilities across the country.

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The news of the county's decision to end its relationship with Corizon comes just weeks after Clyde Spencer, a 58-year-old man being held in the jail on trespassing charges, was found unresponsive in the jail's medical unit and was transported to Virginia Hospital Center for treatment. He was pronounced dead at the hospital about 12 hours after he was originally found unconscious.

Spencer's death is being investigated by the Northern Virginia Critical Incident Response Team, a regional law enforcement group formed in January to examine deaths and other serious incidents and the role police officers or sheriff's deputies played in them.

Spencer was the sixth in-custody death in the Arlington County jail in six years, a fact confirmed by the sheriff's office.

Julius Spain, the president of the Arlington NAACP chapter, believes the pattern of deaths — mostly Black men in their 40s and 50s, according to a letter from county law enforcement shared with DCist/WAMU — is evidence of "a culture issue" at the jail that goes beyond the healthcare contractor.

"Ultimately, the sheriff is responsible for the health and well-being of all inmates," Spain told DCist/WAMU. "There needs to be a level of accountability outside of Corizon."

Spain and the NAACP have been pushing for that accountability from county officials on jail healthcare and deaths in the jail for years. The county is still investigating the death of 46-year-old D.C. resident Darryl Becton, who died after a cardiac arrest in the Arlington jail more than a year ago. Becton, who had pled guilty to a charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, was incarcerated in the jail after his probation was revoked.

Spain says the six deaths, including of Spencer and Becton, are a failure on the part of county officials to ensure the investigation concludes and brings results with it.

"I don't see the forcefulness from progressive leaders — or people who claim to be progressive leaders — to want to step in and figure out what's going on and be diligent and be prudent," Spain said. "I can only say that I think we're missing the mark as a community in that regard."

This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.

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