Woman dies in jail because guards would not give her water

Joyce Curnell (Photo Credit: Charleston County Detention Center)
Joyce Curnell (Photo credit: Charleston County Detention Center)

A South Carolina woman has died in police custody because she was not given the basic essential of life, water. Joyce Curnell was arrested for not paying fines that resulted from a 2011 shoplifting conviction and was jailed at the Charleston County Detention Center. When she was booked, she was suffering from stomach flu as well as sickle cell, alcoholism and hypertension. Despite these noted issues, she was not given any type of medical attention. Family stated that she was in prison for 27 hours and was not given any water while she suffered from dehydration because of the flu.

The family stated that hospital doctors ordered that Curnell receive medical attention if she displayed any symptoms that included vomiting.  According to a jail guard, Curnell began vomiting within minutes of arriving at the detention center and was given a plastic bag to vomit into in case she could not make the line to the bathroom. A medical expert for the family identified as Dr. Maria Gibson stated that her dehydration was worsened by her sickle cell disease, and made worse by her stomach flu and vomiting, Gibson further stated “’Simply put, Ms. Curnell died because she was deprived of water.”

The family is now suing the jail’s medical provider, Carolina Center for Occupational Health, for malpractice for Curnell’s death. It was noted that her death could have been prevented if she had been properly treated for gastroenteritis and dehydration. Curnell arrived at the detention center at 2:30 p.m. and was found dead in her cell at 5 p.m. the next day. An investigation of her death was conducted by the South Carolina’s State Law Enforcement Division but no details have been released surrounding her death.

“Not only has nobody been prosecuted in connection with Joyce’s death, it does not appear that any employee has even been reprimanded,” said the family’s attorney, Scott C. Evans.

Mo Barnes
Mo Barnes

Maurice "Mo" Barnes is a graduate of Morehouse College and Political Scientist based in Atlanta. Mo is also a Blues musician. He has been writing for Rolling Out since 2014. Whether it means walking through a bloody police shooting to help a family find justice or showing the multifaceted talent of the Black Diaspora I write the news.



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