How a 26-Year-Old White Woman Died a Horrible Death in an American Jail


Ryan Cooper | The Week | Reader Supported News | April 20, 2016

merican jails are a hellscape of abuse, medical neglect, and preventable suicide. And because they house those who have been arrested but not convicted or sentenced, very often it’s the legally innocent who suffer. Mass incarceration is slowly fading — but without serious jail reform, abuses will continue to pile up even as fewer people are going through the jail system.

Consider the case of Madaline Pitkin, whose grim, days-long slide into death was recently featured in The Oregonian. She was a 26-year-old heroin addict, pulled over for a routine traffic stop in 2014, and then arrested for an outstanding warrant. She quickly became ill, and despite repeatedly begging for medical attention in writing, eventually died from untreated complications of heroin withdrawal. She was never convicted of a crime.

For the past couple years, Black Lives Matter activists have been arguing that African-Americans are disproportionately abused by the criminal justice system. They are completely correct about this. The statistics are undeniable. Yet Pitkin’s fate provides another window into the system — through the other end of the telescope, as it were.

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