Broward News

Week-Old "Detox Unit" in Broward Jail Failed to Stop Pill Abuser From Hanging Himself

Update: A representative for Armor has clarified that the press release quoted below was not issued in response to our previous story, but was written back in August "to highlight the positive trend in Broward County Jail's successful detox program."

The release highlights many of the program's successes, including a marked reduction in medical incidents at the jail. "Since its inception, the program has treated approximately 11,000 patients and the number of emergency calls related to inmates detoxing dropped a staggering 90 percent," the company states. Crisante's case seems to be an anomaly, but the details are worth considering -- especially because it was a tragic reminder of the widespread epidemic the detox program sought to prevent.

Earlier this week, we brought you upsetting details on the jailhouse suicide of Edward Crisante Jr. in the Broward Main Jail in 2010.

During a few days of what one might consider warning signs that he was not mentally stable, he was making some specific complaints. In particular, he said he felt like his skin was crawling and that he couldn't stop shaking. 

These symptoms are often associated with painkiller withdrawal. Crisante told medical staff he had a history of painkiller abuse. Furthermore, this was in 2010, when the pill-mill epidemic was still in full swing. Could Crisante's depression have been exacerbated by opiate withdrawal?

We couldn't get a hold of Crisante's medication history from his jail stay, as that's a confidential health record. The issue is also complicated by the fact that medical treatment is provided by Armor Correctional Health, which has a history of complaints in the jails. But after we published our story on the Crisante death, Armor drafted emailed us a news release -- on steps they've taken to treat drug withdrawal in the jails. From the release:

In 2010, pain clinics in Broward outnumbered well-known franchises within the county including 71 McDonald's, 21 Walmarts and 47 Starbucks. Detoxing inmates are at greater risk for erratic and suicidal behavior and in response Armor Correctional Health Services, a Miami-based company that provides comprehensive medical, dental and mental health services exclusively for patients in jails and prisons and the current health-care provider for the Broward and Palm Beach County jails, opened a "Detox Unit" in the Broward Sheriff's Office Main Jail on June 22, 2010.

Which was... wait for it... seven days before Crisante turned himself in. Yet there is no mention in BSO's internal investigation report of Crisante having spent time in a "Detox Unit."

Armor says that it "recognized a direct connection to increased suicidal ideation and apparent post-detox depressive episodes" among detoxing inmates. 

The company says detoxing inmates are put into the detox unit for examination before being released into the general population. Nurses, mental health professionals, and a social worker examine patients and monitor vital signs.

"Inmates in the [detox unit] are assessed for suicide potential prior to being released into the general inmate population. Once released to the general population within the jail system, the patient is followed up by both medical and mental health services to ensure they are clinically stable to function in their new housing unit," states Armor Regional Vice President Karen Davies.

Again, the BSO report did not mention Crisante being booked into a "detox unit." It did say that Crisante was "placed on suicide watch" and was examined by a psychiatrist and on the following day was "sent to psyche holding." The report continues: "At approximately 6:47 a.m. Crisante checked out of psyche holding and he was transported back to Unit 2B4 where he remained until this incident [the suicide] occurred."

Previously, the report states, Crisante had been sent to the infirmary, "where he would have been placed on suicide watch," but was later turned away due to overcrowding.

We'll put a call out this morning to Armor's PR team to determine how much of this then-brand-new detox procedure was applied to Crisante during his stay in the jail.

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Stefan Kamph
Contact: Stefan Kamph