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Pregnant Woman Suffers Needless Death in Oklahoma Jail

Jamie Lynn Russell (a.k.a. Jamie Fisher), 33, who was pregnant and experiencing severe abdominal pain, sought medical care at a hospital in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma on January 3, 2013. She was difficult and “not cooperating,” according to nurses, who summoned a nearby police officer to assist.

Medical staff decided to discharge Jamie because she was noncompliant due to her pain, and while the officer was helping her gather her things, he said he found two pill bottles in her possession that contained alprazolam and oxycodone. Since the medication was not prescribed to her, Jamie was arrested on a felony drug charge and transported to the Garvin County jail.

Jamie’s family suspected she may have taken the pills from a family member in an attempt to relieve her excruciating pain. Her family was outraged that the police would pursue a drug possession charge ahead of Jamie’s obviously serious medical condition, and that the hospital would release her so she could be incarcerated.

Unfortunately things only got worse. After taking Jamie to the jail at 8:30 p.m., she was placed in a holding area. Around two hours later, jail deputies noticed she was unresponsive and called for medical attention. She was pronounced dead a short time later.

The Medical Examiner subsequently determined that Jamie had died due to a ruptured ectopic pregnancy – an extremely painful condition.

“There is nothing my staff in the jail could’ve done differently,” said Garvin County Sheriff Larry Rhodes. He asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to investigate, and the OSBI quickly found no criminal wrongdoing by jail employees.

Sadly, the police’s decision to prioritize a drug arrest over a pregnant woman’s need for medical treatment resulted in her death, and it is unlikely that anyone will be held accountable.

“Jamie’s needless death shows us where our priorities lie, misplaced: chasing down minor drug offenders in service of a failed war on drugs is more important [than] human life and dignity,” said Farah Diza-Tello, staff attorney for National Advocates for Pregnant Women.


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