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A Prisoner at Marion County Jail in Arkansas Dies Within Hours After He is Reported to Have an Acute Illness

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Matthew Stephenson, a prisoner at Marion County Jail in Yellville, Arkansas, became acutely ill at about 7:44 p.m. on April 21, 2018, according to Marion County Sheriff Clinton Evans. A jailer assessed Stephenson’s condition and immediately called for an ambulance and first responders.  Evans said the prisoner was non-responsive and remained that way while being transported to Baxter Regional Medical in Mountain Home, Arkansas. When Stephenson arrived at the facility, he was pronounced dead.  The Arkansas State Crime Lab is seeking to determine the cause of death. The custodial death remains under investigation, and no further details have been released.

When custodial deaths occur in Texas, for example, one of the agents involved in a related investigation is the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS). The commission reviews documents and video to determine whether minimum jail standards were being upheld in connection with the prisoner who died.

County jails in Texas receive surprise visits from TCJS, as a way of preventing serious issues from occurring. Visits are sometimes instigated as a result of complaints from prisoners. The number one type of complaint the commission receives is in connection with medical care in jail. County facilities have a responsibility to provide adequate medical care.

When a prisoner dies in Texas, not only can the jail be held responsible if there was negligent behavior, but sometimes employees are criminally charged in connection with a custodial death, which can include death resulting from an illness.

An example of medical care allegedly being denied involves the death of 42-year-old Daren Borges in a California county jail cell. A jury ruled in August 2017 that three correctional officers did not provide adequate medical care. As a result, Borges died following a brief period of detention in 2014. In that case, the jury also found that the county’s practices, customs, official policies, and/or training was the force behind the actions of the officers.

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–Guest Contributor

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