In July 2018, Elkhart County Community Corrections Facility’s disregard for human rights led to the death of a mother of five. After she was arrested for shoplifting at Walmart, Lamekia Dockery died in custody. Guards ignored her desperate pleas for medical attention. In her report for the American Friends Service Committee, Bonnie Kernees connects Dockery’s death to a larger pattern. “Not a day goes by,” Kernees writes, “that AFSC doesn’t receive complaints from people in prison and their families describing conditions, including cold, filth, rats, roaches, mold, callous medical care, extended isolation often lasting years, use of devices of torture, harassment, brutality, and racism.” Kernees calls for community oversight for “every federal, state and county facility, including juvenile and immigrant detention facilities” in order to protect the well-being of vulnerable imprisoned people.
Dockery was arrested for violating her parole after shoplifting at Walmart and sentenced to one year at the Elkhart County Community Corrections Facility in Goshen, Indiana. Immediately after arriving, Dockery began experiencing sharp stomach pains and began complaining to staff. Instead of arranging an examination with medical staff, Dockery was told by guards, “Stop talking to me.” Over the course of six days, Dockery was refused medical assistance even though her vomiting, inability to eat, and continuous screaming were all documented by the facility’s staff. When medical assistance was finally called to her cell in solitary confinement, she was found on the floor unconscious, and was eventually pronounced dead due to sepsis caused by a ruptured ulcer.
Unfortunately, Dockery’s story is not unusual, and sheds light on common injustices in police departments as well as correctional facilities around the nation. Dockery’s case had the potential to bring significant attention to the overall disregard for human rights in correctional facilities around the country. However, her case was overlooked by almost all corporate news outlets. The most coverage Dockery’s death received was by the New York Times. Notably, in the Times’ coverage, a guard is quoted as saying, “I advised her to stop over-talking me.” However, according to Kernees’ report, which was based in part on the guard’s own blog, the guard actually reported, “I advised her to stop talking to me”. What may seem like a simple mistake in quoting the guard’s post is actually significant: What the Times reported could give the impression that Dockery was not showing respect for authority (by “over-talking” the guards), when in fact Dockery, who was asking for medical assistance, was told to stop talking all together.
Source: Bonnie Kernees, “What Happened at the Brooklyn Jail Is Part of a Deeper Human Rights Crisis,” American Friends Service Committee, February 12, 2019, https://www.afsc.org/blogs/news-and-commentary/what-happened-brooklyn-jail-part-deeper-human-rights-crisis; (reposted by Truthout, February 15, 2019, https://truthout.org/articles/what-happened-at-the-brooklyn-jail-is-part-of-a-deeper-human-rights-crisis/.)
Student Researcher: Alexander Akapo (City College of San Francisco)
Faculty Evaluator: Jennifer Levinson (City College of San Francisco)