ACLU concerned over deaths at Richmond jail

Published: Dec. 2, 2016 at 10:32 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A Petersburg family wants a federal judge to hear their story after a man died at the Richmond jail.

The family filed a $20 million lawsuit against the jail and Sheriff C.T. Woody alleging wrongful death.

"There is a basic constitutional right, even when you're put in prison, not to be incarcerated in a way that deprives you of that basic right, not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment," said Claire Gastañaga with the ACLU.

Gastañaga says when any jail denies an inmate critical medical services, there's a problem. That's why the family of Gregory Hill filed this lawsuit after he died in the Richmond city jail just four days after his arrest.

Paperwork shows the family claims Hill told jailers he was addicted to Xanax. They claim a nurse mistakenly concluded Hill was addicted to opiates.

The lawsuit suggests withdrawal from Xanax can be deadly if not treated, unlike withdrawal from opiates. Hill's family says Hill ultimately died after being strapped into a restraint chair.

Gastañaga is not taking a stance in this particular case but says lawsuits against jails are not uncommon. The ACLU says its not just medical care that comes under the radar in cases like this, but that there are also basic necessities that inmates deserve.

"The adequacy of mental and dental care. Not affording them their religious rights. We've litigated cases about people's access to food that meets their religious deal with drug addiction, to make sure people are ready to go back out in the community," said Gastañaga.

Sheriff CT Woody is named in the lawsuit filed by Hill's family. Back in June, we spoke with him after another inmate - Rashad Dandridge - also died at the Richmond jail.

"These things happen here and in other facilities," said Woody. "The main thing is that we can't change what has happened, but we can, if there are those responsible for what happened, we will carry it as far as it will go."

Richmond Police say officers are investigating Hill's death and consulting with prosecutors.

"We're looking at the whole correctional system and looking at where things are working and not working," said Gastañaga

NBC12 reached out to the jail and the attorney representing the jail for comment but have not heard back.

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