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After Sixth Death in Six Years, Virginia Jail Cuts Ties with Corizon Health

Corizon Employee Charged with Falsifying Records

by Jayson Hawkins and Keith Sanders

On February 1, 2022, a 41-year-old Black man being held on a trespassing charge was found unresponsive in his cell at the jail in Arlington County, Virginia. His death later that day, which is still under investigation, came shortly after Virginia-based MEDIKO took over healthcare provision at the Arlington County Jail (ACJ) on November 15, 2021, when the county fired long-time contractor Corizon Health.

Corizon Health, a Tennessee-based firm with an estimated $800 million in 2020 revenues, had held the ACJ contract since 2006. It was awarded a five-year extension in late 2020, just before the in-custody death of Darryl Becton, 46, a pre-trial detainee being held on an alleged probation violation stemming from a 2019 felony conviction for “unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.” After finding Becton unresponsive in his cell, an Arlington Department of Human Services caseworker and a deputy sheriff tried for thirty minutes to resuscitate him before he died on October 1, 2020.

Exactly one year later, Antoine Smith was charged with falsifying records in the case on October 1, 2021. A local news outlet discovered a person by the name of Antoine Smith who listed his occupation on LinkedIn as a licensed practical nurse employed by Corizon Health. Smith was not accused of causing Becton’s death, which a state medical examiner attributed to cardiovascular disease complicated by opioid withdrawal.

It was not Corizon Health’s first controversy at ACJ. In 2014, another company nurse was convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery in Arlington General District Court, though he reportedly reached a deal to avoid a jail time. The company has also faced over 1,000 lawsuits around the country and paid out millions in wrongful death suits.

The move to jettison the healthcare firm from ACJ came shortly after another death on October 8, 2021, that of 58-year-old Clyde Spencer, a pre-trial detainee being held for trespassing. The most recent man to die there, Paul Thompson, was also a pre-trial detainee being held for trespassing. Like Becton, Spencer and all but one of the others who died at the lockup since 2015, he was a middle-age Black man.

Julius Spain, president of the Arlington chapter of the NAACP, said that his group wants answers so that others know that “showing up at our detention facility should not be a death sentence.”

This follows a familiar pattern where after a number of prisoner deaths from medical neglect attracts media attention, the jail or facility will “fire” the private, for profit medical contractor, then hire another one, wait for the body count to go up again, and repeat. Usually after a few contractor replacements the company that originally had the contract gets hired again, with the same results. 



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