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After Eight Deaths in Eight Years, Virginia Jail Introduces—Pickleball?

Having recorded eight deaths in eight years, Virginia’s Arlington County Jail was likely desperate for good news when it reported in mid-November 2023 that detainees competed in the lockup’s first pickleball tournament.

The densely populated county adjacent to Washington, D.C., saw six jail deaths in as many years before cutting ties with former healthcare provider Corizon Health in November 2021, as PLN reported. [See: PLN, Mar. 2022, p.52.] The jail hired a new healthcare contractor, MEDIKO, and installed biometric sensors to scan detainees for signs of a medical emergency or overdose. But there have been two more deaths since then.

A man unable to post bail after his trespassing arrest, Paul Thompson, 41, died on February 1, 2022. Abonesh Woldegeorges, 73, a homeless woman also arrested for trespassing—on the subway—died on August 27, 2023.

All but one of the eight victims were Black, including Darryl Becton, 46; for his September 2020 death, a jail nurse was charged with negligence, only to be acquitted in October 2022. The county then settled a suit filed by his estate for $1.325 million in January 2023, as PLN also reported. [See: PLN, July 2023, p.61.]

Meanwhile, the idea to bring pickleball to the jail was first floated by Sheriff Jose Quiroz while running in the Democratic primary for the office in June 2023. He suggested that the exercise would help detainees maintain health while also combatting staff burnout.

For the inaugural tournament, competitors came from several jail programs: Addictions, Corrections and Treatment, the Community Readiness Unit and the work program for detainees. Sheriff’s Office Spokeswoman Amy Meehan didn’t announce a winner, but she said about two dozen detainees participated, taking lessons from county parks department staffers before engaging in “thrilling competitive play.”  


Source: Local News Now Arlington

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