Video still from a surveillance camera in Richmond Heights Jail, St. Louis, Missouri. Anna Brown has just been carried into the cell and laid on the floor. She is dying.
Over on BagNewsNotes, Karen Hull has written a brief but poignant piece about the death of Anna Brown, a young, Black homeless woman. In particular, Hull considers the role surveillance cameras have played in the investigation into Brown’s death.
In September, 2011, Brown died in a jail cell in St. Louis, Missouri. She had visited three hospitals earlier in the evening complaining of pain in her legs but she was turned away by each of them. When she protested and insisted she needed treatment she was arrested and booked into jail. 15 minutes after they closed the door she was found dead. Brown had not used drugs, yet an officer later casually remarked and assumed she had.
Race, health care, and surveillance culture come simultaneously into play here. That the healthcare system can be reckoned as something other than a force for good is balanced by the good of a typical “evil”: surveillance. Without surveillance film, it’s possible the death of this young woman would have gone unnoticed. [...] as much controversy as there is surrounding CCTV, rest assured that in the future, we will increasingly witness via surveillance.
The footage was attained by the St. Louis Dispatch via a sunshine request.
Unfortunately, the mistake of authorities to think of a distressed woman as manic instead of in need of urgent medical attention is not unprecedented. In 2009, Cayne Miceli suffering an asthma attack was dragged away from a New Orlean’s hospital and put into a five point restraint in the Orleans Parish Prison. She was disruptive, fearful and loud, but the medical staff at the jail should have known the immediate threat to her life. She died of hypoxic brain injury, cardiac arrest and asthma, brought on by the horizontal position of her restraint.