David Stojcevski’s horrifying death in jail, explained – Vox – Updated by German Lopez on September 29, 2015
I didn’t realize withdrawals from opioids could be fatal and this makes me even angrier at some self-righteous doctors who have no qualms cutting us off. They foolishly believe that stopping the opioid drug is more essential to our welfare than anything else.
Prior to his jail stint, Stojcevski was being treated for his drug addiction with methadone, Xanax, and Klonopin to stave off withdrawal symptoms, which can be deadly.
Even a basic knowledge of these drugs and addiction suggests that suddenly yanking Stojcevski off of his medication would cause withdrawal — and that’s exactly what happened when jail officials didn’t give him the drugs.
Over 17 days, Stojcevski displayed typical withdrawal symptoms. He didn’t eat, likely due to withdrawal-induced nausea. He shook and appeared to experience seizures. He seemed to hallucinate, reenacting a previous fight with an inmate. On his last two days, he laid on the floor, shaking and in clear distress.
During all this time, staffers rarely tended to Stojcevski’s needs, even though his cell was under surveillance 24 hours a day. As he lay on the floor shaking and not eating his food over 48 hours, no one showed up to help until the very end. But it was too late — he was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Incarcerating someone who can’t pay a fine is also tantamount to debtors’ prisons, which lock people up for failing to pay a debt. Not only are debtors’ prisons unconstitutional, but they’re also unfair to poor people and impose extraordinary harms, the American Civil Liberties Union explained:
There are also signs that jail staff simply didn’t know how to treat an inmate with medical needs like Stojcevski. As two mental health experts told Local 4, Stojcevski was clearly suffering from a medical condition even as jailers did nothing to care for him.
One sign the jail was unprepared for a case like Stojcevski’s: Staff obviously misdiagnosed him. Jailers put him in the mental health ward for mental instability and erratic behavior.
But the staff knew Stojcevski was taking drug addiction medication, and he was obviously suffering from withdrawal. As Donna Rockwell, a clinical psychologist, put it to Local 4, “anybody who even has two minutes of training would know that.” That jail staff apparently saw Stojcevski’s symptoms and did nothing suggests they lacked adequate training or acted negligently.
Macomb County officials, however, insist they followed “proper procedure” in the case. But if that’s really true, maybe the problem is the procedure is inadequate in the first place — and something is wrong with how the county jail deals with people in clear need of medical help.