Orlando Dispatch

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Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods accused of withholding vital health information from the families of inmates

mcso, police corruption, marion county jail
Ocala Post file photo

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods is being accused of instructing his jail employees to withhold vital health information from the families of inmates.

This is a topic in which Ocala Post has received dozens of emails from both family members of inmates as well as MCSO employees who completely disagree with the way the sheriff has handled the pandemic and treated inmates…many of whom have since had charges dropped for various reasons.

In many of the emails, Woods is quoted as saying that his decisions “are not up for discussion.”

In another email, Terri Waters, stated, “Woods is an elected official. Taxpayers want answers. Despite what an inmate has done, the family members of that inmate also suffer. COVID-19 is rampant in that jail.” She went on to say, “Employees do not wear masks. How the hell do they not expect employees to bring it in? From profiting from extortion via family members through mass incarceration and the company the jail partners with to take the money, to COVID-19, it is sickening. We all need to be vary wary of ANY elected person who does not like to be questioned. We need a new sheriff not another Ken Eargle.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

Most recently, Chris Williamson, the son of an 87-year-old inmate who recently died, said that he was never told by the jail that his father had been moved out of the jail.

Williamson said that he became suspicious when his father missed two visitation calls and started to call the jail looking for answers.

In fact, Williamson said that even after he called the jail multiple times, he was given the runaround and no actual helpful information. Employees at the jail would not answer his questions.

Finally, several days after Williamson had left another message at the jail, he said they returned his call. Jail staff told him that his father had tested positive for COVID-19 and was now on a ventilator. The jail never told Williamson that his father had been moved.

MSCO officials claimed that they did not know Williamson was the emergency contact for his father, however, Willaimson said he had signed forms at the jail multiple times listing his relationship with his father. He had also met in person with a nurse.

Williamson said that he was told by other family members to start calling hospitals. After several phone calls, he discovered that his father had been moved from jail to a hospital.

Willaimson said he overheard someone from MCSO tell the nurse, “Only give him medical information, do not tell him his father’s location.”

Heart of Florida Health Center, the healthcare facility that recently started providing inmate care for the jail, said they have been instructed by MCSO to not tell any family members when an inmate has been moved for a medical emergency.

James Smith, the attorney who was representing the inmate, said that Willaimsnon’s father had other medical conditions, needed a wheelchair to get around, and could barely move.

Smith, who is based out of Orlando, said that there was no reason for Williamson’s father to be in jail and that, the situation should be scrutinized by the public. He said it should definitely raise awareness about the jail.

He said not everyone in the jail is guilty and that false arrests absolutely do happen.

Especially when it comes to the faulty roadside presumptive test. A test in which chocolate, oregano, aspirin, gum, donut glaze, and many other items can produce a false positive for heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and other drugs.

Smith asked, “Where is the humanity?”

Smith said that the charges against Williamson’s father were dropped by the State Attorney’s Office when he was moved from the jail to the hospital.

Williamson said that he was told by MCSO that they do not inform any family of medical emergencies when an inmate removed from the jail for “security reasons.”

In one email, a family said that, with the help of an MCSO employee, they have filed a complaint against Woods with the FBI and Attorney General, but have yet to receive a response. The email stated that they are not hopeful since the AG and Woods endorse one another politically.

In an email from Tamika Johnson, she wrote, “Woods acts as the judge, jury, and executioner. To him, all inmates are animals, no matter if it’s a false arrest and his deputies are found at fault or not.”

Williamson said that he was not allowed to see his father before he died. He said his father died alone.

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