Society

Doctor: Black Woman Died In Jail From Dehydration

| by Michael Allen
Joyce Curnell Mug ShotJoyce Curnell Mug Shot

Joyce Curnell died in the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston, South Carolina, on July 22, 2015, after 27 hours in custody.

Before Joyce was booked on July 21 for an outstanding bench warrant, she was seen at a local hospital, News 2 reported at the time.

Joyce's son, Javon Curnell, told The Post and Courier on Feb. 25 that his mother was an alcoholic who lived in a mobile home without water or electricity.

In an effort to save his mom from her alcoholism, Javon said that he called the police to report Joyce and her warrant when she was at an emergency room because of a stomach illness that turned out to be gastroenteritis.

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“She needs some time to detox herself,” Javon told police over the phone, reported The Post and Courier. “She’s my mom, but I’m trying to help her. She won’t listen ... Before I have to bury her, I’d rather she go [to jail]."

The 50-year-old mom's bench warrant was in relation to $2,200 in fines for beer and candy bars, worth $20, that she had stolen back in 2011.

The State Law Enforcement Division closed the case on Joyce's death after a coroner ruled in 2015 that her death was natural, but some of the details that were recently released in the division's final report show a huge difference in the recollections of the inmates and jail staff.

Inmates said that Joyce was consistently vomiting and was denied her medication by the jail staff, which she needed, per her hospital doctors, for her gastroenteritis.

The Carolina Center for Occupational Health, which provides medical care to the jail, and the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail, are saying very little because of a probable future lawsuit.

“Our agency has made many advances in ensuring that we consistently provide a healthy environment for all prisoners regardless of their circumstances,” the sheriff said in a statement, according to The Post and Courier. “The reverence of life is paramount to the mission of the Sheriff’s Office.”

“They left her in a cage like a dog,” Joyce's nephew, Joseph Singleton, countered. “We heard she was in the emergency room, and then we heard she had died.”

The family's lawyers filed a notice on Feb. 23 to sue the Carolina Center for Occupational Health for malpractice. 

In that filing, the attorneys included an affidavit by Dr. Maria Gibson, a doctor hired by the family as an expert witness.

Gibson said in the affidavit that Joyce died of medical complications that were caused by a “series of conscious violations.”

“Simply put, Ms. Curnell died because she was deprived of water," Gibson added.

In addition to her gastroenteritis and alcoholism, Joyce suffered from sickle cell disease and high blood pressure.

According to the court filing, Joyce vomited “through the night," and was given a trash bag to vomit into because she “couldn’t make it to the bathroom."

The jail staff told the medical staff at the jail about Joyce's medical condition, but the medical staff “refused to provide any medical attention to [her] whatsoever," according to the filing.

Sources: News 2, The Post And Courier (2) / Photo credit: Charleston County Sheriff’s Office via The Post and Courier

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