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Arlington cuts ties with jail health-care provider

Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur said in a statement that her office is “committed to providing the highest level of medical services to those in our custody.”
Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur said in a statement that her office is “committed to providing the highest level of medical services to those in our custody.” (Joshua Yospyn for The Washington Post)

Health care inside the Arlington County, Va., jail will no longer be provided by a controversial for-profit company.

The county said in a statement that it will end its contract next month with Corizon Health, which has operated in Arlington since 2006.

A new provider was not named but is expected to take over on Nov. 15.

Officials did not elaborate on the reason for the change, but Sheriff Beth Arthur said in a statement that her office is “committed to providing the highest level of medical services to those in our custody” and that she takes each individual’s care “very seriously.”

She added, “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.”

A spokesperson for Corizon did not immediately return a request for comment.

Arlington renewed its contract with Corizon last year, an agreement that could have extended through 2025. That was before the death in custody of Darryl Becton, a 46-year-old D.C. resident.

Late last month, a man named Antoine Smith — who according to his LinkedIn profile worked for Corizon as a nurse — was criminally charged with falsifying a patient order in connection with Becton’s death.

Officials have declined to elaborate on the charge, citing an ongoing investigation.

According to the state medical examiner, Becton died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease complicated by opiate withdrawal. An attorney for Smith did not immediately return a request for comment.

Just after Smith was charged, a 58-year-old man with a history of heart problems lost consciousness in the jail’s medical unit and died soon after.

Corizon has faced more than 1,000 lawsuits across the country alleging substandard care in jails and prisons. The company has paid out millions to settle wrongful death lawsuits. When D.C. considered contracting with Corizon in 2015, inmate advocates and other opponents successfully quashed the proposed agreement.

Julius Spain, president of the local branch of the NAACP, said his group is still seeking accountability.

“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,” he said.

Arlington Public Defender Brad Haywood said he was pleased that the county was cutting ties with “an abominable medical provider like Corizon.” But he said he doubts whether any outside firm can provide decent care.

Other prison-health-care contractors have faced similar allegations of neglect and abuse, he said.

“A county that claims to be dedicated to a new paradigm for our criminal justice system ought to have the best psychiatric services and medical services,” he said. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

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