According to her family’s lawyers, a 50-year-old woman who was arrested after failing to pay her court fines died the next day because she was deprived of water while she was in jail.
Joyce Curnell was arrested at Roper Hospital in South Carolina, where she was being treated for a stomach illness. Authorities determined Curnell had not paid fines from a shoplifting charge or responded to a court letter, according to the Post and Courier.
Soon after arriving to Charleston County Jail, Curnell became too sick to cry out for help according to lawyers. She spent the night vomiting and could not make it to the bathroom, so she was given a trash bag as some medical personnel ignored jail officials’ requests to leave her alone.
The family attorney, James Moore III, said that Curnell’s death was the result of a “deliberate failure,” and a local doctor agreed that her death was “more likely than not” preventable had she been properly treated for gastroenteritis and dehydration.
“Providing access to reasonable medical care to those under police custody is a necessity, not a privilege,” Moore said. “It is a constitutional right. We are committed to seeking justice for Joyce and for her family.”
Shaundra Scott, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, said that the ACLU also plans to keep a close eye on the case.
“It is very unfortunate to hear of another death of an African-American while in police custody,” she said. “If Ms. Curnell was denied medical treatment, then it is our position that her constitutional rights were violated.”