Broward County jail conditions at center of lawsuit

Published: Monday, September 1, 2008 at 10:44 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 1, 2008 at 10:44 a.m.

MIAMI Conditions at Broward County's jail will be the focus of the trial in a civil rights lawsuit filed for an inmate who was beaten into a coma, perhaps by other inmates at the behest of guards.

Attorneys for Dana Clyde Jones say he was beaten by other inmates at the behest of two black guards angered by his racist remarks. Jones, who is white, was in a coma for months after he was found lying in a pool of blood in December 2005.

Jones had a history of mental illness and was awaiting trial on charges that he had punched his mother in the mouth. He now lives in a nursing home. Trial on the lawsuit is scheduled to begin Tuesday in federal court in Miami. The Broward sheriff's office has declined comment, but has denied the allegations in court filings.

Jones' attorneys allege that for years sheriff's officials misled the public about unconstitutional living conditions at the jail by hiding overcrowding and covering up guard misconduct.

Former Sheriff Ken Jenne, imprisoned since pleading guilty to corruption charges last November, was brought to Miami in chains last week from a federal penitentiary in Virginia to testify.

Attorney Barbara Heyer has indicated she'll question him about jail policies, and how he came to award a $127 million jail health care contract to a company owned by a Miami physician who also was a major contributor to his 2004 re-election campaign.

The company, Armor Correctional Health Services, is also a defendant accused of putting Jones in "mortal danger" by failing to properly classify him, or treat his mental illness. Owner Dr. Jose Armas is expected to testify. He is denied wrongdoing.

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