ATLANTA — A family said their loved one died in the Atlanta City Jail, where she was being held for a minor crime, and it took hours for anyone to find her.
Records show Wickie Bryant was booked into the Atlanta City Detention Center in Sept. 2015 after police arrested her for disorderly conduct. Bryant suffered from schizophrenia and diabetes, among other health issues.
Mildred Sims, Bryant’s sister, said Bryant was then moved into a jail cell in an area of the jail where lights had not been on for years.
“It's really, really painful,” Sims told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne. “If it wasn't for our faith, we wouldn’t be able to get through this.”
“She was only in there for a misdemeanor,” attorney Stephen Fowler said.
Bryan left the jail almost exactly one month later on a covered stretcher. Now, that misdemeanor case has morphed into a federal suit alleging wrongful death.
“We want justice for her. I am speaking on behalf of her. I am her voice,” Sims told Winne.
The suit says, “Ms. Bryant died alone in an unlit cell, where her body remained for several hours before anyone even noticed that she died.”
“They found Ms. Bryant dead in a dark, unlit cell,” said attorney M.J. Blakely.
“Ultimately Ms. Bryant suffered from diabetic ketoacidosis, which essentially happens when a diabetic patient or individual does not receive the medications they need to survive,” Fowler said.
The suit alleges Bryant, “consistently declined treatment, but no mental health professional evaluated her decision-making capacity, and no one ever referred her to a physician.”
“Not once did she see a doctor,” Blakely said.
Bryant’s attorneys said written jail policy requires a doctor referral for an inmate who refuses medication twice.
“Does it say how that referral will happen?” Winne asked Fowler.
“It does not,” Fowler said.
The attorneys said the policy lacks clarity and checks and balances, and didn’t help Bryant, though she refused medication several times.
The suit alleges at one point, Bryant became agitated and an officer moved her to another cell “in an area where the lights had not functioned for years, making it extremely difficult to see detainees.”
“This is not the place you house anyone, especially somebody who's suffering from mental illness and whose health care condition is declining,” Blakely said.
An email from a city spokesperson said the city cannot comment on a case that is in litigation.
The city did, however, provide a copy of its investigation, including video, after our open records request.
The file shows disciplinary action against a number of people who were in jail for rules violations.
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