This article was produced in partnership with AL.com, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. This article was originally published on September 30, 2019.
Michael Tidwell’s blood sugar reading was at least 15 times his normal level when sheriff’s deputies took him to the hospital. But before they loaded the inmate into the back of a car, deputies propped up his slumping body and handed him a pen so he could sign a release from the Washington County Jail.
“I could barely stand up or keep my eyes open,” he recalled.
Tidwell said that he didn’t know what he was signing at the time, and that he lost consciousness a short time later. The consequences of his signature only became clear in the weeks that followed the 2013 medical emergency.
By signing the document, which freed him on bond from the small jail in south Alabama, Tidwell had in essence agreed that the Washington County Sheriff’s Office would not be responsible for his medical costs, which included the two days he spent in a diabetic coma in intensive care at Springhill Medical Center ...