By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
The NAACP Monday asked the Justice Department to investigate the Broward Sheriff’s Office after the deaths of 21 inmates in the Broward County jail since 2021.
Calling the rate of deaths in the county’s jails “alarming,” NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson requested a probe of their “conditions and management, especially its psychiatric treatment practices.
“The investigation should determine if further federal oversight is necessary to protect incarcerated individuals’ constitutional rights to adequate medical treatment,” Johnson said in his five-page letter to Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for civil rights. “Immediate action is needed.”
The letter also noted that since 2011, more than 80 men and women have died in BSO four jails due to non-COVID-19 causes. “A startling number of these cases involve people suffering from mental illness,” Johnson wrote.
For decades Broward’s jail system was under federal supervision for violations of inmates constitutional rights. The problem erupted publicly in 1976 when inmates filed a class action lawsuit alleging overcrowding, unchecked inmate violence and the excessive use of force by guards.
In 1995, a consent decree placed the jails under federal supervision. That supervision was mostly lifted in 2017 after a judge held that those illegal conditions were sufficiently corrected. Only the jails’ mental health practices remained under the court’s supervision.
The letter cited a number of specific cases:
- Sonny Rugani, 17, had a documented history of mental illness and suicide ideation when he killed himself in jail in 2019.
- Kevin Desir, 43, another mentally troubled man, died in the North Broward Jail in 2021 after detention deputies placed him in a “restraint chair.” “An independent autopsy commissioned by Desir’s family listed strangulation as Desir’s cause of death” and his family later filed suit in federal court alleging excessive force and neglect. The case is pending.
- Keirstyn Bucy, 22, killed herself in 2022 after being incarcerated under Florida’s Baker Act. Her father has said she was not being watched by jail mental health professionals when she died.
- Tammy Jackson had bipolar schizophrenia when she gave birth in her North Broward bureau cell in April 2019 “without any medical attention.”
- John Ireland was in “solitary confinement without any psychiatric treatment for nearly five months” when, in 2018, he “cut off his penis with a shaving razor.”
Only one month into 2024, the letter also cited two more deaths and another attempted suicide in BSO’s jails.
- Jan. 1. Corbin Moberg died of an alleged drug overdose “despite being incarcerated for two and a half years with a documented history of substance abuse and drug related offenses.”
- Jan. 4. Hubert Blount tried to kill himself while in the North Broward Bureau’s mentall health unit.
- Jan. 22. Joseph Kirk, jailed for seven days following his arrest for allegedly running from law enforcement, died after being found unresponsive at the Broward County Jail. He had been placed in a detoxification unit and “it is suspected that his death may have been linked to improper detox protocols or an overdose.”
The letter goes on to note that in December 2022 Sheriff Gregory Tony wrote to Broward Chief Judge Jack Tuter, Public Defender Gordon Weekes and others “acknowledging that too many individuals experiencing mental illness were ending up in the jail rather than receiving appropriate treatment.”
Wrote Johnson, “The county is responsible for intentionally neglecting and depriving people in its custody of necessary medical treatment. However, it seems incapable of addressing this problem on its own…There is clearly reasonable cause sufficient to launch a review of the BSO jails.”
“The NAACP is horrified by the continued injustice that Broward County families have been forced to endure,”