The parents of Jesse Jacobs want answers after their 32-year-old son died in police custody in March following his Xanax prescription being withheld from him, About magazine reports.
There is no disagreement that Jacobs was denied Xanax, which he'd been taking for over a decade to treat a severe anxiety disorder, but Galveston police officials claim the young man died of "natural causes."
After checking himself in to Galveston County Jail to serve a 30-day sentence for driving while intoxicated, Jacobs began suffering seizures after his fourth day in custody. On his seventh day in jail, he was found unresponsive and taken to the University of Texas-Medical Branch in Galveston, where he later died. How he was initially discovered as unresponsive is unclear as police officials have different versions, including reports that medical personnel found him in his cell and that he collapsed when he was being administered medication.
"Normally what happens if they are under a doctor's care, we have our doctors on site elevate the inmate and make decisions on the medications they are going to administer," Galveston's Chief Deputy of Corrections Mary Johnson told About. "I do know some psych drugs and stuff they don't allow, some they won't prescribe." The Galveston County Jail was cited six years ago for "Not dispensing medications as ordered by a doctor."
Sudden cessation of Xanax is highly dangerous, and is known to lead to seizures. Jacobs's doctor said he had no history of seizures. Even so, Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochessett insists he died of natural causes, telling About, "I don't know if the family is trying to throw some red flag into the air that we apparently did something to him -- when he just died of natural causes in jail."
Diane Jacobs, the young man's mother, said she called the prison before her son's death and informed medical officials of his need for Xanax but, "they told me there was no doctor there to help him."
While the death of Jacobs is one of the most recent high-profile cases of a gay man dying in police custody, numerous transgender inmates have reported prison abuses. Cece McDonald, jailed for killing her racist, transphobic attacker, suffered 19 months in a men's prison. Ky Peterson, a black trans man, was imprisoned for killing his rapist and is serving 20 years in a Georgia prison, including 15 in confinement; he's been unsuccessful in obtaining hormone therapy that his doctors have deemed medically necessary. Also serving time in Georgia is trans woman Ashley Diamond, who claims she's been sexually assaulted several times in men's prisons and also denied hormone therapy. Diamond filed a federal lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections in February, and in April saw the federal Department of Justice validate her claims that denying her medically necessary treatment violated her rights under the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.