Across the country, inmates suffering from medical crises are being denied the care they need to survive.
Sometimes, the inmates don’t know why they are in such distress, but even when an inmate tells authorities what is medically wrong with them based on past experience, their pleas may go unanswered. Such is the case with a young woman from Texas who died in the summer of 2017 in a small Nevada County jail.
Unpaid Traffic Tickets Lead to Death in Mineral County Jail
The 21-year-old woman, behind bars for unpaid traffic tickets, died after guards refused her pleas for treatment for her heroin addiction. Kelly Coltrain informed guards while incarcerated in Mineral City Jail that she was an addict and would suffer seizures without the drug.
Video footage of her last day shows a woman vomiting and shaking as she went through withdrawal. Rather than offer help, guards gave her a mop and bucket to clean the vomit from her cell. Coltrain died, however, it took six hours for jail personnel to realize she had succumbed. No call went out for medical assistance until the morning, hours after her body was found.
Coltrain was in Reno for her grandmother’s 75th birthday in July 2017 when she was stopped for speeding and found to have the unpaid traffic tickets.
Although she told jail authorities about her addiction and need for medical attention, the deputy in charge said he wouldn’t send her to the hospital to get her fix. Coltrain’s ordeal lasted three days before she died.
The death was ruled as a complication of drug use, which is true as far as it went. Of course, her death was entirely preventable had she received treatment.
The guards on duty were supposed to check inmates every two hours, which they clearly failed to do in the case of this young woman. No charges were pressed against jail personnel, but Coltrain’s family has filed a wrongful death suit.
According to the lawsuit for wrongful death, “If Ms. Coltrain had received timely and appropriate medical care, she would not have died. Kelly Coltrain suffered a protracted, extensive, painful, unnecessary death as a result of defendants’ failures."
A representative from the sheriff’s office said it was difficult for a small county such as theirs to handle the “massive problem” of drug addiction, and that “so many” people end up going through withdrawal in jail. The entire population of Mineral County is less than 4,500.
Jail Policy Ignored in Nevada Jail
Tiny as the Mineral County Jail may be, it has policies and procedures just as larger penal institutions, and these were not followed in Coltrain’s case. After telling jail officials that she would suffer seizures in withdrawal, she should have been cleared by a doctor.
The staff should have to monitor her vital signs as she went through withdrawal.
Although there was a hospital right across the street that attended to the needs of inmates, no one at the facility was contacted. During the three days she spent in jail before her demise, Coltrain was huddled in a fetal position under a blanket and did not eat or consume anything other than a small amount of water.
A state investigator assigned to the case said the outcome might have been different had jail authorities followed proper procedures. The investigator also timed a walk from Coltrain’s cell to the nearby hospital. It took him two minutes.
No Settlement Without Jail Improvement
Coltrain’s family is demanding compensation for Kelly’s death, but that is not their sole concern. They also want conditions at the jail improved, and that is a condition of the lawsuit settlement.
Nothing will bring Kelly back, but the family wants to ensure that no one else has to endure what they, or Kelly, went through.
Were you or a family member denied medical care in jail resulting in serious injury or death? We can help expose the wrongdoers and file a federal lawsuit against everyone involved for compensation and to make sure it doesn’t happen to another victim. CALL 866.836.4684 or Connect Online for a no-cost legal consult to learn your rights.