The family of Joyce Curnell, a 50-year-old South Carolina woman who was arrested last summer at a hospital and found dead at the Charleston County jail just 27 hours later, is suing the jail’s medical contractor for negligence. Curnell's family alleges that her death was “because she was deprived of water” while in custody.
At the time of her arrest for an outstanding bench warrant related to shoplifting charges, Curnell was being treated for a stomach illness at a nearby hospital. The Charleston Post & Courier, detailed the events that lead to Curnell’s death: “She spent the last 27 hours of her life behind bars. During that time she became too sick to eat or call for help…She vomited all night and couldn’t make it to a bathroom, so jailers gave her a trash bag,” the report reads. “The filing cited expert opinion from a local doctor, who said that Curnell’s death ‘more likely than not’ would have been prevented if she had been properly treated for gastroenteritis and dehydration.”
According to the Post & Courier, Curnell had been on a payment plan since April 2012 to pay the $1,148.90 in fines related to the 2011 shoplifting charge, but stopped paying the following January. A bench warrant was issued in 2014, but Curnell did not respond. The paper also reported that it is unclear how law enforcement knew where Curnell was when she was being treated for gastroenteritis.
A statement made by the family’s attorney, James Moore, reads, “It is incomprehensible that in the year 2015, in the United States of America, we have members of our community suffering and dying from thirst and dehydration…Providing access to reasonable medical care to those under police custody is a necessity, not a privilege. It is a Constitutional right.”
Sadly, Black citizens dying in police custody happens far more often than it should:
(Photo: ABC News 4)