Macomb County, MI — A local news company’s investigation into a young mother’s tragic in-custody death has uncovered disturbing details and exposes, at best, criminal negligence, and, at worst, deliberate torture.
When she was thrown in jail, 37-year-old Jennifer Meyers hadn’t physically hurt anyone. Meyers had fallen behind on her child support payments and instead of allowing this mother to keep working to actually help her children, a judge threw her in a cage for 30 days. She would only last 12 of those days.
The investigation by Local 4 Defenders found a series of events leading up to Meyers’ death that could have and should have prevented it. The investigation also yielded video of Meyers’ body being removed from the cell.
“Obviously, when somebody comes in to the jail, the punishment is being there,” said Robert Ihrie, the Meyers family’s attorney, reports Click on Detroit. “The punishment isn’t to die.”
However, after hearing the witness statements in regards to what happened to Meyers, she was neglected to the point that death actually became her punishment.
According to the investigation, Ihrie claims in a federal lawsuit that jail guards and privately contracted medical staff failed to see something that was obvious to other inmates.
“It looked like she had just gotten out of the shower and she was sweating so bad,” a witness said.
According to the Local 4 investigation, the inmates said they put wet towels on Meyers’ body, trying to cool her down. They said the illness was not sudden and that she was becoming increasingly ill each day of her incarceration.
“Nobody ever came in to check on her and see if she was OK,” a witness said. “She wasn’t eating. She wasn’t drinking.”
As her body began to completely fail over the last few days, Meyers never left her bed — not even for meals.
“She wasn’t responding to me, and the minute I touched her she felt like she was in a meat freezer,” a witness said.
In spite of Meyers being almost entirely unresponsive, neither the Sheriff’s Department guards nor the privately contracted medical staff took her to a hospital.
When an inmate requests medical attention in a jail, this is called a ‘kite.’ All of Meyers’ kites were ignored according to inmates.
“She was kiting all the time and the nurses wouldn’t do anything about it,” a witness said.
“She gave them the kite,” another witness said, according to click on Detroit. “She said she could barely get out of bed. She was trying to hand them a piece of paper. She said, ‘You’re going to have to give it to midnight staff or morning staff. I can’t do (anything) about it.'”
“I saw her hand it to the nurse, and then she said, ‘You have to give this to the morning person or the night person.’ She wouldn’t take it,” a witness said.
Dr. Frank McGeorge said the signs of illness and the foul smell should have warranted an in-depth examination by jail medical staff and a trip to the hospital, according to Local 4.
“To leave them in jail with an infection that ultimately leads to their death, it’s just about the same as putting them to death,” McGeorge said.
“She’s not feeling well and the nurses aren’t doing crap about it and the officers don’t giver her the time of day,” a witness said.
Less than two weeks after Meyers was locked in a cage as a punishment for being late on her child support payments, she was dead from a virus that was slowly moving through her body. Now, any future help her children would’ve received from their mother is non-existent.
In-custody deaths are an unfortunately common occurrence in prisons throughout the US. In 2015 alone, in just the state of Texas, there were nearly 600 deaths under police supervision.
Causes of custodial death can include illness (heart disease, cancer, etc.), suicide, drug or alcohol intoxication, accident or homicide. However, it is likely that there are more homicides than reported, only at the hands of cops.
The case of Sandra Bland illustrates how suspicious some of these deaths can be. Bland was charged with “assault on a public servant,” but dashcam video showed no such thing. The arresting officer, enraged at Bland’s flexing of her rights, threatened her repeatedly before making the arrest. Bland was later found dead in her cell, allegedly hanging herself with a plastic bag.
In July of last year, 32-year-old Jesse Jacobs checked himself into Galveston County Jail to serve a 30-day sentence. Just like Meyers, he was denied medication after suffering seizures and died after becoming unresponsive three days later. The department insists he died of natural causes, yet they were aware that he needed the medication from a phone call put in by Jacobs’ mother.
Four people in eight days died while in the custody of the Houston Police Department, two before they even reached a jail cell. One died by allegedly hanging himself 12 hours after being booked for drug possession, even though he passed their mental health evaluation.
Unnatural causes of death while in custody have increased in the U.S. since 2007, while illness-related deaths have declined. Suicide is consistently the leading cause of death, but intoxication, accidents, and homicides have all increased. California joins Texas to produce nearly a quarter of all jail inmate deaths.
Jennifer Meyers is, unfortunately, now part of those statistics.
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