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Arkansas jail changes policy after inmate’s asthma death

April 3, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A central Arkansas sheriff’s office has changed its policy on inhalers after a woman booked into the local jail suffered a fatal asthma attack last year.

Jail records released last week show an inhaler was among the items deputies took from Sharon Lavette Alexander when she was booked into the Pulaski County jail on Dec. 13 on a robbery charge.

She was found unconscious in her cell the next night and pronounced dead at a hospital. A report from the Arkansas Crime Laboratory says the 41-year-old died of natural causes from acute asthma exacerbation.

The jail has since changed its policy to allow inhalers, Pulaski County Sheriff Doc Holladay told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2nAmg4h ).

“We have to balance how we try to protect the security of the facility and ensure that the inmates are provided adequate medical care,” he said.

Holladay said the old policy instructed deputies to confiscate an inmate’s inhaler and examine it for contraband within 24 hours. Inhalers were not returned until a prescription was verified.

“It’s one of those things where you hope that the policy is effective and it has been effective for years,” Holladay said. “But when something happens, you try to find a way to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

An administrative investigation is ongoing.

Alexander’s husband and daughter declined requests for comment by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Medicine and medical devices, including inhalers, are restricted at jails and prisons nationwide over concerns that inmates will misuse them. But reports show limiting access to inhalers has been deadly for asthmatic inmates in some cases.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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