- Tracie Weaver, 43, was being held in Washington County Jail in Chatom, Alabama, while awaiting trial after being accused of illegal possession of a credit or debit card.
- She needed emergency medical care after she had been vomiting for hours and had a dangerously high blood pressure, according to a lawsuit filed by her family.
- However, during a call between a dispatcher and then-jail administrator Arthur Busby, Busby asked if Weaver had insurance or Medicaid in an effort to figure out who would pay for her medical care, a recent report by ProPublica revealed.
- Weaver was eventually taken to the hospital later that evening. She was pronounced dead the following night from a massive cerebral hemorrhage.
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Audio released by ProPublica reveals that sheriff’s office staff debated who would pay the medical bill of an inmate in an emergency situation. The inmate later died at the hospital.
Tracie Weaver, 43, was being held in Washington County Jail in Chatom, Alabama, while awaiting trial, after being accused of illegal possession of a credit or debit card.
Other inmates described Weaver as “physically and mentally weak and in distress” and “appeared underweight, ill, and unstable,” even when she first entered the jail a week before the incident on June 13, 2016, according to a lawsuit filed against jail administrators in February 2018.
The lawsuit claimed that Deputy Sheriff Emil Delarosa “failed to provide Tracie her necessary medication on a timely basis,” as Weaver suffered from seizures and “debilitating headaches.”
On June 20, 2016, Weaver needed emergency medical care after she was vomiting for hours and “appeared to be having a stroke,” the lawsuit alleged. However, Delarosa placed Weaver into a solitary cell for six hours, where she “kicked on the door and begged for help,” according to the lawsuit.
At one point, Delarosa threatened to “knock the f–k out of her if she didn’t shut up,” the lawsuit stated.
In a call recording obtained by ProPublica between a dispatcher and then-jail administrator Arthur Busby, Busby asks if Weaver had insurance or Medicaid in an effort to figure out who would pay for her medical care – including potentially putting her on “furlough” and calling her family to take her to the doctor.
“If Weaver was covered by Medicaid or private health insurance, then her medical bills would not be the county’s responsibility if the sheriff’s office released her from its custody,” ProPublica reported.
During the call, Busby advised the dispatcher to “call her family and tell them to come get her and take her out to the hospital,” or otherwise “wait on a county unit” to take Weaver to the hospital, as none were on hand at the time of the incident, according to ProPublica.
ProPublica reported that Weaver was eventually taken to the hospital later that evening. She was pronounced dead the following night from a massive cerebral hemorrhage, a state autopsy report revealed. Her cause of death was listed as a “cerebrovascular accident” or stroke.
Jail officials believed that Weaver would have died anyway, despite the time it took to take her to the hospital.
“We wound up taking her to the emergency room,” current jail administrator Sandy Cooley told ProPublica. “But it would not have mattered; if she had been on the operating table, she’d have still died.”
Washington County Sheriff Richard Stringer said that “every time someone is booked into this jail, we go over their medical history,” which includes a “health questionnaire” that inmates fill out to list their medical issues. At the top of the list, ProPublica reported, is the question: “Has insurance?”
“We go through the whole scenario and you know, you do the best you can,” Stringer told ProPublica, adding that “like any jail, you’re gonna have deaths.”
The jail does not employ any full-time medical professionals, nor do doctors or nurses periodically visit the facility. Instead, the jail administrator makes medical calls for inmates, Stringer told ProPublica.
“Not only is the Jail under staffed, but the correctional officers lack training to carry out their functions in a minimally safe manner,” the lawsuit claims. “The correctional officers’ lack of sufficient knowledge of inmates’ medical conditions give rise to the inmate’s medical deterioration and death.”
Henry Brewster, the attorney for Weaver’s family that worked with their lawsuit, remains critical of the inmates’ lack of access to health care.
“They have an obligation, despite what their finances are, when there are conditions that could lead to an inmate having a serious health condition, to provide adequate medical care,” Brewster said.
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