Diarist Note: The information comes directly from Ms. Sanchez, though the arrest information is on public record - https://www.usinq.com/...
On May 12, 2015 Davida Sanchez was arraigned and tried by the Cowlitz County District Court for child custody interference and contempt of court – sentenced to 30 days without bail in the Cowlitz County Jail. Davida suffers from a chronic spinal injury caused by a car accident several years ago, and severe food allergies and migraines which she is prescribed daily medications to treat. Little did she know that her month-long jail sentence would almost be a death sentence.
The Cowlitz County Jail is notorious for refusing medical treatment to people in its care. A prominent example is the period from 2013-2014, when 4 people held at the Cowlitz County Jail died due to lack of medical attention. It was also during this time that Ms. Julia Weed suffered a miscarriage in the Jail after being beaten by the Longview PD, and was denied medical treatment. Those abuses are far from isolated incidents, as Ms. Sanchez’s case will show.
As Davida was processed at the Cowlitz County Jail, her intake officer “Jill” was immediately abusive, shoving and pushing her despite being informed of the spinal injury. The officer then claimed that Davida was suicidal, and despite her protests, put her on suicide watch. She was taken to the “medical ward” where they put mentally ill people, stripped completely naked in front of the other (male) inmates and guards, forced to put on a green Velcro hospital gown, and then shoved into a bare cell without a mattress. She reports that “there was mold growing in the toilet and there was drippings on the wall from dried urine and the floors were covered in bodily fluids throughout the room.” She continues, “That was my first night in the Longview Jail… That’s when I realized that this wasn’t just jail, this was going to be something worse.”
The second day, she was moved to the women’s portion of the jail, “Cell Block C”. She was given a green jumpsuit, sandals, and her one pair of personal underwear and socks, which she could not wash. After the first few days, Davida began to feel sick and vomit repeatedly. Her requests for non-allergenic foods were ignored, and her medications were withheld by the med pass nurse. After four days of constant vomiting, and numerous attempts from her cellmates to get her medical attention, she was moved back into the locked down cell in the “medical ward” so that she would be secluded and no one else would be able to complain. She describes her condition:
“I was to the point where I was just exhausted, my ribcage was hurting from all the heaving, I had nothing left in me but bile. When I’d hit the emergency medical button, I’d be often ignored or yelled at…The prisoners in the cells on either side of me heard me vomiting day and night and crying out for help. They kept asking if I was ok and all I could do is beg to be taken to the hospital.”
Several days later, she was finally taken down to the hospital, the staff assuming she was detoxing. After being seen by a nurse, she was put on IVs and nausea meds. Her relief was short-lived however when she was taken back to her cell. She was shuffled over the next few days from cell to cell, eventually being placed in a portion of the cell block reserved for detoxing inmates. By this time, the meds wore off, and she resumed vomiting.
“I asked for a “kite” (a note to the staff) requesting medical help because the vomiting is back, though the migraine is gone I can’t keep any solid food down. It was refused soon after several guards come to my cell as though looking as though they’re going to rush the room. “Jill” was with them. She moved me to a “dry cell” (A cell with no running water or toilet). I was put on the floor with a 2inch “mattress” and a vomit bucket… The ceiling was covered in feces, the walls and floor had body fluids in …all I could do was vomit and curl up in the fetal position on my mattress waiting for the next wave.”
She was diagnosed with a UTI, but was unable to take the large pill prescribed to treat the condition due to her continuous vomiting. She was finally given Ensure at medical direction. She writes,
“I (was) weak, dizzy, having trouble walking, seeing, and can’t feel my legs below my knees sometimes off and on, having such a hard time speaking that it started to sound like a stutter. Instead of any of the staff noticing, I was just being made fun of for not being able to speak. My movement, speech, and ability to think clearly were deteriorating as my body was eating itself to make up for the lack of food, nutrition, or water. One day a guard came by with my food, threw it into the vomit bucket and walked off laughing as I’m lying there weak, exhausted, deteriorating, and extremely sick. My body was so cold that my fingernails, toenails, and lips were turning purple.”
Davida was not allowed to contact her lawyer, and she endured constant harassment and abuse from the guard “Jill”, who would bang on the door of Davida’s cell every half hour to prevent her from sleeping throughout her entire shift. At one point, she deliberately slammed Davida’s hand in the door, shattering two of her fingernails and splitting a third. Meanwhile, Davida’s health continued to deteriorate:
“My dehydration got so bad that my mouth would foam up when I would cry. Many times when I would ask for water many times I was refused now. I start to notice that my body is now developing a green discharge that smelled like death. When I begged for help for that one of the guards said “when you get older your body starts to make changes, you just need to get used to that…” I was supposed to get a small cup of Ensure 2 times a day and I was getting those two cups until one of the nursing staff refused to give me the evening cup. For several days I was living off of just one small 2inch cup of insure per day…I faded in and out of consciousness. I could barely produce 8oz of urine a day, getting gradually darker till it’s almost brown.”
A new guard took pity on Davida’s condition, and called the RN in medical, but the nurse was a friend of Jill, and refused to check on her. It was through this guard that Davida’s mother finally learned the truth about her condition, as she had been refused visitation by the Jail administration and was lied to on the phone, saying she was doing fine.
“My mother went to my attorney and begged for help. He came down to see me. I explained that since I was incarcerated in Longview I lost 27lbs within 3 weeks, allowed only one Ensure daily, my urine was dark when allowed to go to the bathroom once every 15-16 hours, and that I haven’t been allowed to take a shower in 8 days.”
Her attorney arranged an emergency release hearing after observing her condition.
Davida is still trying to recover from her harrowing treatment at the Cowlitz County Jail. Even as her physical injuries slowly recover, the psychological and emotional scars will continue to plague her for some time to come.
“As soon as I left the Jail I went straight to the ER to see that I didn’t have permanent damage, to get bags of IV drip. My own nurse was dumbfounded that anything like that could happen in the US…I never thought I would get out of there alive. I was luckier than another man whose death occurred while I was there due to negligence, and was covered up…I’m lucky to have gotten out of there alive. This is not right, this is not humane, and this is not justice.”
These horrendous human rights abuses at the Cowlitz County Jail must stop. Concerned citizens are encouraged to contact the WA State Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, and demand an investigation into the ongoing prisoner abuse and brutality at the Cowlitz County Jail and the Longview PD at: (360) 753-6200.
Interested parties and media can contact Ms. Sanchez at her email address for information regarding her story at: email@example.com