DEATHS IN POLICE CUSTODY UNDERSCORE DANGERS FOR PEOPLE ARRESTED WITH DRUG ISSUES
July 30, 2019
The Boston Globe
By Michael Levenson
Shayne Stilphen died after he was found unconscious in a police holding cell in the South End on July 14. But the public wasn’t informed about it until his mother, Lynnel Cox, marched into the Suffolk district attorney’s office last week demanding answers.
At least four other people have died in police custody since 2012, Boston police say, but they could not provide an exact number and there is no requirement that they or other police departments publicly disclose when suspects they are holding die in their custody.
The conditions in police holding cells are sparking increasing concern among prisoner advocates who warn that the opioid crisis is driving more people into a criminal justice system that was never designed to prevent overdose deaths or care for those going through withdrawal.
“It’s not an aberration,” said Elizabeth Matos, executive director of Prisoners’ Legal Services. “It’s a systematic problem of the system not being properly equipped to deal with folks coming in with substance use disorder.”