Man’s Alcohol Withdrawal Death In Jail Could Have Been Avoided, Family Says

By Victoria Kim 06/08/16

Phillip Ross Board died after spending one day in jail and his family believes it's due to alcohol withdrawal.

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Man’s Alcohol Withdrawal Death In Jail Could Have Been Avoided, Family Says

The death of a West Virginia jail inmate could have been prevented, his family says. Phillip Ross Board had struggled with alcoholism for years, and when he was placed in South Central Regional Jail in Charleston, he eventually died of symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, the family’s lawyer Jesse Forbes told the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

So far no lawsuit has been filed, but Forbes says the family is seeking an explanation for Board’s untimely death. They want to know if the jail screened him for substance abuse, and if they did, was he treated for it?

It all began when police saw Board allegedly staggering, intoxicated, while walking down the street with his 9-year-old son in Dunbar. A week later, he was charged with child neglect creating risk of injury. According to a criminal complaint, his blood alcohol content was .462 at the time. He was jailed on April 4 and died the next day.

The only explanation that a spokesperson for the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety would provide to the Gazette-Mail is that Board suffered a “medical episode” in his cell and that staff provided “assistance” until he was transported to the hospital, where he died.

Jails should be better equipped to deal with inmates who require medical attention for a substance use disorder, Board's family says. According to a 2010 report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 1.5 million inmates of the total 2.3 million inmates locked up in U.S. correctional facilities met this criteria.

The National Commission on Correctional Health Care, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of health care in correctional facilities, says all jails should routinely screen inmates for substance use disorders and withdrawal.

In June 2014, David Stojcevski of Michigan died in Macomb County Jail, where he was serving a 30-day sentence for failing to pay $772 in traffic tickets. He suffered 17 days of benzodiazepine withdrawal and lost 50 pounds before he died. The case prompted the FBI and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to get involved.

In May 2015, Tyler Tabor of Colorado asked jail staff for intravenous (IV) therapy to manage his heroin withdrawal symptoms, but they told him an IV wasn’t available “unless it’s absolutely necessary.” Just days after arriving at the Adams County Sheriff’s Detention Facility in Brighton, he died. The official cause of death: dehydration due to withdrawal from a controlled substance (heroin).

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr