'Highly suspect' deaths of 2 men in Florida jail prompts call for investigation

PHOTO: A general view shows the Broward County Jail in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, June 5, 2019.PlayJoe Skipper/Reuters
WATCH Deaths of 2 inmates in Broward County 'highly suspect': Public defender

The deaths of two men, and the reported illness of a third man, in a Florida jail raise serious questions about the "quality of medical care" in the facility and should be investigated, the county public defender's office said.

"It is highly suspect that two middle-aged men died unexpectedly in such a short period," Public Defender Howard Finkelstein wrote in a letter to the Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony on Tuesday.

The two men who were being held in the Broward County Jail at the time of their deaths have not been publicly identified. In his letter, Finkelstein refers to one man who died on June 1, 2019, at the age of 41. The man's "cries for help and medical assistance were ignored," according to other inmates, the letter said.

The second incident involved a 47-year-old man who died six days later, on June 7, 2019. That man was "awaiting community placement for mental health treatment" when he died, the letter said.

"He had been adjudged incompetent to proceed due to his mental illness. He was just shy of his 48th birthday. Yet he died in jail," the letter said.

The letter also details a situation where a third man, who did not die, suffered from a "swollen and abnormally enlarged" throat" and "his stomach was also red and swollen with obvious signs of infection." Despite requests for treatment, the man did not receive medical attention, the letter said.

"The indifference displayed toward Mr. [redacted] given his need for medical attention is offensive and must not be allowed to continue," the letter states.

The sheriff's office did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

The letter also references two other instances of possible medical neglect, including the case of a mentally ill man who "mutilated himself by cutting off his own penis while locked in isolation," though no further details of that case were included in the letter.

In March, a woman gave birth alone while in a jail cell under the sheriff's jurisdiction.

In addition to calling for an investigation, the letter also urged the sheriff to "implement policies and procedures to ensure that adequate medical care is timely delivered within your jail facilities."

Broward County's jails have been under federal monitoring since 1979, after a lawsuit found that the jail was too crowded and the medical facilities, among others, were inadequate, according to The Florida Sun Sentinel newspaper.