8/1/2011 -State authorities in Florida caused a stir last week when they stopped a check to pay for the funeral services of a teenager who died after jail staff refused him medical attention. The West Palm Beach Post reported that a $5,000 check issued at the request of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) was destroyed last week by the state’s Chief Financial Officer. Today the same newspaper is reporting that state CFO Jeff Atwater re-issued the check.
On the night of July 9th Eric Perez as just another young resident in Florida with a small amount of marijuana. He turned 18 just a few weeks earlier. But the next morning Perez was dead. What happened in the time between is the subject of an intense and ongoing investigation. Some disturbing details have already emerged.
For the seven hours that Perez was in custody he was having severe headaches and was continuously vomiting. He pleaded for help. Guards have come forward to say they were directed by supervisors not to call 911 that night. (Those guards were then fired for following those orders.) Towards the end, Perez was moved to a bare “medical” cell and left without anyone to monitor him inside. At some point the guard assigned outside the door apparently went absent.
The tragic conclusion is all too clear: Eric Perez died completely alone and in great pain on the floor of that Juvenile Detention Center cell. His mother will receive the video of her son’s last moments.
This horrific case showcases that the poor management of local jails quickly becomes inhuman treatment of those incarcerated. Men of color between 18 and 35 bear the brunt of marijuana prohibition laws. Because this is the most-arrested group of Americans means they also have the greatest probability of encountering the worst in jail environments.
Fourteen US states have decriminalized the possession of a small amount of marijuana by adults. Even more states have the option of issuing a court summons at the time of a police encounter in lieu of a custodial arrest.
The death of a young person in a Florida correctional institution was common enough that the Department of Juvenile Justice already has a policy in place to pay for the burial expenses.
The agency has issued the payments twice before, according to DJJ spokesman C.J. Drake.
Drake would not comment on the finger-pointing but said “we’re pleased that this matter is finally being resolved in favor of the young man’s family.”
The check was overnighted Monday to Richard Schuler, an attorney representing Perez’ mother Martiza Perez, Atwater spokeswoman Alexis Lambert said.
“They have done an about-face on the issuance of the check for funeral expenses. I think it’s the right thing to do under the circumstances,” Schuler said. read full at West Palm Beach Post
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Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions? email@example.com