After being treated for gastroenteritis at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina in July, Joyce Curnell,50, was arrested on an outstanding bench warrant stemming from a 2011 shoplifting charge.
Nothing unusual about that, but what happened next was downright criminal, says a lawyer representing her family.
Curnell, who was battling sickle-cell anemia, alcoholism, and hypertension, was found dead in her cell just before 5 p.m. ET on July 22. She had been deprived of water for 27 hours.
A medical expert told her family’s lawyers “that the persistent vomiting likely triggered her sickle cell disease, which worsens dehydration,” writes the New York Daily News:
Court documents filed Wednesday against the jail’s medical contractor said that Curnell remained sick at the jail, where she spent 27 hours before dying of the stomach flu and complications caused from dehydration.
Her family’s lawyers cite a jail officer’s statement that the inmate was vomiting “within minutes” of being taken to her cell after a medical screening.
She was given a trash bag after she could not make it to the bathroom and continued throwing up, but a nurse at the facility said that someone would be by around 5:00 a.m. to check on the sick woman.
Doctors at the hospital where she was arrested had ordered her to receive prompt medical attention if she showed symptoms, including vomiting, abdominal pain, and dizziness, notes the report.
Curnell’s death came at a time of increased scrutiny of how black women are handled behind bars. She was one of at least six such women nationwide to die in law enforcement custody that month. They included Sandra Bland, the inmate found hanged in a Texas jail days after a state trooper pulled her from her car during a traffic stop. Her death was ruled a suicide, but the trooper was indicted on a perjury charge for his handling of the arrest.
If the charges are true, we hope Curnell’s family receives the justice they deserve. We also hope anyone who sanctioned the treatment faces criminal charges.