Kellsie Green died in the Anchorage jail, and now her family wants to change the jailhouse system

Published: Apr. 24, 2019 at 4:21 PM AKDT
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Kellsie Green was 14 years old when she was raped. She was addicted to heroin by 18, and at 24, she died inside the Anchorage Correctional Complex from complications related to heroin withdrawal.

She had been booked into Anchorage jail on Jan. 5, 2016 on an outstanding warrant after her parents called Alaska State Troopers hoping that time in jail would help get her off drugs.

"What would you do? That's a hell of a choice for any parents," John Green, Kellsie's father said, "but that's the reality of addiction in Alaska today and then."

John Green filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit against the Alaska Department of Corrections, alleging her time in custody at Anchorage Correctional Complex lead to her death. That case was recently settled after DOC agreed to pay the Green family $400,000 and release the videos showing the final days of Kellsie's life while in custody.

The lawsuit claimed the department failed and/or refused to provide Green with adequate medical care.

"It's extremely difficult. What parent wants to sit and watch over and over and over again, videos of their daughter, calling out for help, and nobody being willing to do that?" Green said. "And then to watch their child essentially die and be carried out dead."

Green hopes more investments will be made to get inmates who have addiction problems into treatment.

The Alaska Department of Corrections says it can't comment on specific legal cases, but wrote in an email that the department has four goals:

"Identify at-risk inmates, manage symptoms of withdrawal, prevent serious events, and bridge patients to treatment. The health and safety of every individual within our institutions is of utmost importance to DOC. It is department policy that all prisoners have access to and receive healthcare services comparable to those available to the general public."

DOC says that by default, it is the largest provider of drug and alcohol detoxification services.

"On any given day, DOC has about 40 inmates being monitored for withdrawal symptoms and an average of 10 per day on medically managed detox protocols," Sarah Gallagher, a public information officer with DOC wrote.

During a deposition with Green's lawyer, one nurse who works for the prison said he received almost no training and protocols for medical treatment seemed unclear.

"I guess the best description would be trial by fire," an unidentified nurse in a video said about his training within the prison. "A lot involves just having to learn by osmosis, watching. Not the most practical training."

Green's attorney, Jason Skala says the state should be commended for the settlement.

"Part of the problem here, we see over and over, is you've got people literally providing mental health care or providing medical care with no training or probably aptitude for it," Skala said.

Green says he remembers his daughter as a beautiful young woman who dreamed about writing a book about her struggles with addiction to deter young people from trying drugs.

"We wonder why our jails are full," Green said, "It's because we do nothing for people when they're in there. They're treated as less than human."

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