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Mentally and Physically Disabled Texas Woman Hospitalized After Mistreatment at Jail

by Ashleigh N. Dye

A disabled woman, who suffers from a severe seizure disorder, ended up spending eight weeks hospitalized in a coma with a black eye and bruises, after spending ten days in Texas’ Tarrant County Jail.

Kelly Masten, 38, was sent to the jail after her grandmother and legal guardian called 911 when Masten bit her on April 11, 2022. Masten, who has the mental capacity of a six-year-old and cannot communicate, was taken to the jail on a domestic violence charge, though authorities reassured her family that she would be transferred to a hospital after a brief evaluation.

But Masten wasn’t taken to the hospital until April 13, 2022, and then she was returned to the jail for another eight days because jailers misspelled her name, so her medical records could not be located.

“She was treated for the injuries that she had, that they could see—and sent back to Tarrant County jail,” explained her sister, Kristin Salinas.

Meanwhile, Masten’s seizure disorder—a rare form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome—went untreated while she was incarcerated. Why? Frightened and confused, she refused the medication, and by policy jail staff could not force her to take it.

During a visit, her father observed her having a seizure. It is assumed that more occurred based on the bruising and marks on Masten’s body. It appears she may have at times been held down and at other times left on her own.

It is unclear why and how nobody intervened in her case, but her father says that the wrong birth date and name recorded by jail staff only served to complicate her situation. Charges have since been dropped against Masten, who is reportedly back home and recovering her limited ability to breathe and eat on her own.

Tarrant County jail has been plagued with a spike in deaths of detainees and prisoners, rising from an average of one per year in 2016-18 to a total of 36 over the next three years.

From the officers who responded to the 911 call to the jail guards and medical staff, no one seemed to notice that Masten did not belong in jail or need to be charged with domestic violence. What she needed was help and medical attention, yet she did not receive it. Her situation was only brought to attention after investigative reporter Nichole Manna discovered it and dug in deep. The question is why.    

Source: Fort Worth Star Telegram, WFAA

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