Lebanon, PA -- Victoria 'Tori' Herr died in Lebanon County Correctional Facility last month after police hesitated to provide her with medical care for several days. Herr was addicted to heroin and began to go into withdrawal when she was taken into custody.
This is a situation that can be potentially deadly if not handled with care. Sadly, the corrections officers at the jail accused her of "faking," and refused to get her medical care until it was too late.
According to the family, Tori may have been abused by the officers while she was in custody. On a petition page for Tori, a loved one mentioned the abuse, saying that,
"On arrival, she was not given a medical physical. No one addressed her addiction. She went into heroin withdrawal that turned out deadly. She had begged for help but was denied. The guards said she was faking. Before she was taken to a hospital, they abused and neglected her in horrific ways that are better left unsaid. She had laid in a coma for five days before she died on April 5th, Easter Sunday."
The police department said in a statement that "all protocols were followed" and that there was no wrong-doing in the girl's death.
"At approximately 10:15 p.m. due to a medical emergency involving an inmate. Upon initial questioning of staff, all operational protocols appeared to be followed. The PA State Police were notified of this incident and responded as per procedure," the on-staff officer's report said.
Tori's mother Stephanie Moyer last spoke with her on Monday, March 30 after her arrest.
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Moyer recalled to Lebanon Daily News that "I was like, 'Tori what happened?' and she said, 'I don't know, mom. But I'm seeing people die. I'm going to die,' And I said, 'Tori, you are not going to die, honey, you are just going through withdrawal. And she said, 'I'm so thirsty. I'm so thirsty. I just want lemonade. They won't give me lemonade. Can you put money on my account?' She said, 'I've got to go,' And I said, 'Wait! How do I put money on your account?' And she said, 'I don't know, maybe go into the jail. I've got to go.' And that was the end of our conversation. It was the last time I talked to her."
After that disturbing conversation, Moyer went to the jail to put money in her daughter's commissary and to see if she was OK. She was told by officials at the prison that her daughter was in "quarantine" and that she would not be able to see her until the following week. Her parents returned the next day, not convinced that they were being told the whole story, but again they were turned away.
"I had concerns, I know Tori mentally. I knew this would be a huge thing to bear mentally and physically. Her physical condition just wasn't that great. She was so thin and tiny. You know, just being an addict alone," Moyer said.
After refusing to allow them to see their daughter for several more days, they got a message from Lebanon County prison Warden Robert Karnes who informed them that their daughter was in the hospital and in critical condition.
"She was in a coma, she had brain swelling. Her brain had swelled. They said they (the prison medical staff) did CPR on her for 33 to 40 minutes until they called 9-1-1. That's what the doctor told us. So you do the math," Moyer said.
Sadly, Tori was unable to recover from the coma and ended up dying as a result of her incarceration.
"Heroin in itself, you don't die from withdrawal of heroin, but you do die if you are not given liquids and certain things because you are dehydrating, because they vomit and they are going to the bathroom all of the time, so they have to have fluids. Whether or not she got those fluids, I would venture to say no, because she died. Unless there is another reason why she died," Moyer explained.
The family has not indicated whether or not they will be pursuing legal action, however, they have started a petition demanding that the prison improve their treatment of people with medical issues. They have also started a Facebook page where Tori's friends and supporters can share information and organize.
John Vibes is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war. In addition to his writing and activist work he organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference, which features top caliber speakers and whistle-blowers from all over the world. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can find his 65 chapter Book entitled “Alchemy of the Timeless Renaissance” at bookpatch.com.