SPOKANE, Wash. — Jana Akins, the mother of 39-year-old Sharona Marie Carroll-Camps, who died in the Spokane County Jail on Tuesday morning, said that Carroll-Camps allegedly struggled to get proper medical treatment while she was in the jail.
Akins spoke with KREM 2 about her daughter's alleged treatment in the jail, including what she says was harassment from a guard, improper medication and denial of treatment.
The Spokane County Medical Examiner identified the inmate who died as Carroll-Camps on Wednesday.
Carroll-Camps is the ninth person to die in the Spokane Co. Jail since June 2017, many of which have been suicides or drug overdoses. Akins said she was told by the SCME that the cause of death was a possible drug overdose, and guards had attempted to administer Narcan.
While the Spokane Co. Sheriff's Office and Jail staff can't comment on specific inmates or deaths, Spokane Co. Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, Spokane Co. Health Officer Bob Lutz and Spokane Co. Jail Interim Director Michael Sparber held a press conference on June 13. During the conference, they said an opioid crisis is causing the deaths of inmates in the jail.
An inmate who died in the jail in June 2018 allegedly asked for help for up to an hour, according to witnesses interviewed by investigators.
KREM reached out to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office and Spokane County for comment. The SCSO said they cannot comment due to the investigation being ongoing.
Spokane County Spokesman Jared Webley sent the following statement:
"All questions regarding the investigation of the incident should be referred to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Detectives and Forensic Unit.
Not specific to this case, but in regards to the question in general about drugs entering the jail, as we discussed about the quantity, unfortunately with the type of drugs available these days it does not take a large quantity to reach the levels of an overdose. It is an unfortunate fact that inmates attempt to smuggle drugs and other contraband, as well as abuse prescription drugs, into Detention Facilities across the nation. Even with pat downs and strip searches some drugs and contraband is smuggled in after being ingested or inserted into a body cavity. Contraband is also found in mail and packages on a regular basis. The Detention Services staff is continually updating their methods of detecting contraband and they are committed to keeping our inmate population safe, but whenever you’re dealing with these highly addictive illegal substances, people will typically find creative ways to gain access to their use."
In the transcript below, KREM 2 Investigative Reporter Ian Smay's words are written in bold, while Akins' words are written as normal.
Editor's Note: The following is an extended transcript of the interview, which has been lightly edited for brevity and grammar.
KREM'S Ian Smay: When you reached out to us, you said that both you and your daughter had asked for medical help repeatedly, to no avail. Could you describe the process of making those requests and the reason given for them being denied?
Jana Akins: She was sending kites [written requests for help] to medical all the time. Every time she had a question, they wanted her to send a kite. She wasn't getting responses and she talked to me about it. Her kids and I went to visit her one day and she walked in and she looked terrible, she looked half dead. I said, “What’s the matter with you?" She said, “I don’t know mom, I’ve been trying to get them to get me to the doctor and they won't help.” So, I said, “Push that button I want to talk to the guard.” She said, “No, he'll just get mad,” and I said, “Push it anyways.” So, she pushed it and the guard came to the door, and I said, “What's wrong with my daughter, look at her, she looks terrible, she needs a doctor.” He ended our visit and told me to go down the stairs and talk to the sergeant, and from that point on I couldn't get anywhere with anybody there. I talked to the sergeant, they assured me they would do something about it. Days later they still hadn't. So, I contacted, reached out to the Mayor and I reached out to the Commissioner, and after I reached out to the commissioner, I don't know if they did anything, but after that is when they finally got her to the doctor. They found out that her pacemaker, the battery was shot on it. She only had days left on the reserve, so they scheduled surgery for her. And, when she told me that after her surgery, her doctor wanted to keep her there overnight. And [the jail] said no, that they could handle it. And [the doctor] asked if [the jail] had an infirmary, and they said yeah, that they would take care of it. And she told me that when they got back there, she got tossed back into a cell and wasn't checked on at all. Didn't see anybody or anything and her health has been declining since then, for the last month.
Smay: So, to go off that, so when she was given surgery, she wasn't given any medical attention afterwards?
Akins: That's what she told me, yeah. And I didn't see any evidence of it. She even had an allergic reaction at the site, the site where they replaced the whole pacemaker, not just the battery. They put in new leads, bigger ones. And she was having problems with the site and she asked for help with that there, and they looked at it through a window, and it was fine, they said, and walked away.
Smay: So they didn't do any testing on the reaction, they just looked at it and thought it was fine?
Smay: So, you say the pacemaker had been dead. Did they say how long the pacemaker had been dead for before she was given medical attention?
Akins: No, they didn't, but it had to be for a while, because she was already on the reserve of the battery. So, the battery was shot. So, she was on the reserve already and told me she only had a few days left on it, was what the doctor told her, on the reserve, so they got her in right away and got her scheduled for surgery and she got right in.
Smay: You said you reached out to the Mayor and a Commissioner to try to get some help done. Which commissioner was that?
Akins: You know, I don't remember. I sent emails to a few of them because I was not sure which one it was. I don't remember, I'm not thinking real well today.
Smay: When you reached out, you brought up that she had made a complaint about bullying and harassment from a guard. Can you just describe what was in that complaint?
Akins: Yes. She wrote a complaint saying that he was spreading rumors and that he was mistreating her, he was discriminating against her. He was calling her names, and the answer came back from the sergeant was that, 'Well you're just a,' I can't remember the word he said. 'Problematic inmate?' And, 'You're a pathological liar, there's no basis for this,' and let it go at that. Didn't go any further or anything on it. And she told me he'd been harassing her the whole time she's been there, since October.
Smay: And was that complaint, was there any follow up on that? Or did it ever reach any higher-ups?
Akins: He flat out said he wasn't going any further with it in the complaint, he said that himself, he wrote it himself.
Smay: So the guard that she was complaining about was the one handling the complaint?
Akins: No. The sergeant was, [the accused guard's] sergeant was. The sergeant said she was a pathological liar and there was no basis for it.
Smay: You said one time when you visited her before her death, she looked sick. Could you describe how she looked?
Akins: She couldn't walk straight without holding on to the walls. She was really dizzy. She was pale, she was bloated, swollen, her face was broke out. I thought she was going to pass out, I really did. And her kids were scared, they said, "That's not mom." And that's why I got the guard in there right away, and I asked him what was wrong with my daughter, she needs to see a doctor. And I said, "She's got a pacemaker," and at that point, he said, "I don't know, why don't you go to the sergeant about it?" And he shut the door, and then he came back a couple minutes later and ended our visit early. So, we didn't know if we would see her again or not. She was in pretty bad shape.
Smay: And how soon was this visit? How close was it to when she passed away?
Akins: This was, it has only been a couple weeks, it hasn't been long at all. It was right before her, a week or two before, her surgery. Because that's when I decided to do something about it; when they wouldn't listen to me. I spoke to the head of the medical department there, and she assured me that everything would be fine, she was looking into it, and they didn't. They finally got her into surgery, but it was after I had to contact people.
Smay: How close was her surgery leading up to when she passed away?
Akins: Less than a month. About two or three weeks.
Smay: When you were contacted by personnel about your daughter's passing, what did they give as the reason for the cause of death?
Akins: A possible drug overdose.
Smay: And that was the only cause they gave you?
Akins: That was the only thing they told me.
Smay: And do you believe that was the cause of death?
Akins: No I don't. I do not. She's been trying to get medical help since October when she went there. She was very sick, and she had cancer, and she had Hashimoto's [thyroiditis] and some other things going on, and she was very sick, and she always has been kind of sickly. She was on medications. They took her off a lot of medications she was on. They put her on different ones that weren't helping. She requested back to the old ones so many times. They just kept telling her, 'Oh, we're going to send it to the provider for review.' It was always that kind of excuse. They didn't follow through on anything. Then, they told her, 'Well, you're not going to get this medication, you're going to get this one, because this is what we're going to do.' And she just kept begging. Toward the end there, I think she was almost crazy, cause she was seeing weird stuff at night when she couldn't sleep. She was having night terrors, all kinds of stuff.
Smay: How long during her time in the jail had she been having these issues trying to get medical attention? Was it the whole time?
Akins: Almost from day one.It started in November. She went in October and started in November. And there was constant, kite after kite after kite, sometimes five kites a day to medical for help. And they just kind of ignored her. They really pushed her aside.
Smay: Could you, real quick, tell us what a kite is, when you reference a kite?
Akins: It's a written request for help, or for something, you know, you want to go to the law library, or something, you have to do a written request for it. Or, you want to see a doctor, you do a written request. A kite is a written request. They have to sign it and it has to go through proper channels.
Smay: I understand you found some of those documents in your daughter's belongings.
Akins: Yes, I did. A lot of them.
Smay: Could you describe what was contained in those?
Akins: A lot of it was about her medications not working. She kept getting worse. You can see from the dates, like November until just this last month. The difference in her handwriting even, the difference in the way she was wording things. She was just fed up and ready to give up. She wanted somebody to listen and somebody to help her. She was begging for help.
Smay: And did any of those say whether they were approved or denied?
Akins: Most of them just said they were going to a provider for review. And then other ones that, when she did see somebody, said, 'Well, this is what we're going to do,' and basically, it was, "Too bad. This is what we're going to do, and you're not going to get the medication that you want, that's been working. We're going to do it our way." She kept telling them, "It doesn't work, it doesn't work. This has been working, I've been on it for years. This doesn't work." They even said, with one medication, they don't provide that medication. She said, 'I can provide it, I just need it.' And they still wouldn't do it.
Smay: Could you give us an estimate? Or how many of those requests were found in her belongings when you picked them up?
Akins: Oh my goodness, I had a whole paper bag full of them. Hundreds, there had to be at least two hundred. Lots of them.
Smay: Have you been in contact with jail staff about the circumstances surrounding her passing since that happened?
Akins: No, not really, because they kind of just gave me the phone number over to the Medical Examiner, and the Medical Examiner said that they took toxicology samples, and they sent them out, but they're five to 10 months back on getting those back. So, we won't know the cause of death for sure, for five to 10 months. I still don't know more than when they told me she died.