Two Detoxing Heroin Users Died of Dehydration in Jail, for No Good Reason

The danger of going cold turkey behind bars in America. 


Heroin deaths in the United States have quadrupled over the past decade. While all were preventable, some are more preventable than others. Like the two Colorado inmates who died while incarcerated and suffering through heroin withdrawal this year. There’s simply no good reason this should be happening.

Most recently, KUSA reports 25-year-old Taylor Tabor died this May in Adams County Jail because of complications from opiate withdrawal. He had been arrested that same month for heroin possession; his parents refused his $300 bail out of tough love. Also in 2015, mother of seven Jennifer Lobato, 37, who apparently had a heroin habit, was found dead in her Jefferson County jail cell shortly after being arrested for shoplifting in March. In both cases, the cause of death was dehydration. It’s a common symptom of opiate withdrawal as the user vomits uncontrollably.

Also in both cases, the families say the deaths were preventable, and I’m inclined to agree that there’s no reason for inmates to die detoxing, especially as so many other public officials are improving treatment. In Baltimore, there’s a push to get a medication called Naloxone, or Narcan, into police hands because it essentially reverses opioid overdose just long enough for someone to get medical attention. In August, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration introduced new language into their grants encouraging medication-assisted treatment in a clinical environment rather than total abstinence from all drugs. Withdrawal is a brutal, painful experience: nausea, diarrhea, insomnia, fevers, cold sweats. There’s a reason a monitored detox period is part of so many rehab clinics. Going to prison shouldn’t mean you have to try kicking cold turkey.

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