Update on the Passing of Lavera Scott

Chicago Community Bond Fund was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Lavera Scott while she was incarcerated in Cook County Jail this past March. Jail is an inherently dangerous place where physical and mental health needs often going un- or under-treated. The criminalization of addiction also makes the jail a place where people who use drugs are disproportionately forced to suffer.

CCBF was further outraged to realize that Ms. Scott’s death by overdose may be used to justify the further dehumanization and violation of marginalized communities through invasive strip searches. As reported by WGN, the Sheriff Office’s immediate reaction to learning Ms. Scott’s cause of death was to suggest that drugs inside the jail are hard to limit because the jail no longer strip searches prisoners. It is common knowledge that most contraband, including drugs, enters prison and jails through guards and other staff, not through prisoners or their visitors. (See https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2018/12/06/jail-contraband/.)

Ms. Scott didn’t conceal drugs on herself and then overdose after a month in custody. She almost certainly obtained the drugs that killed her while she was incarcerated and from a member of the Sheriff’s own staff. Efforts by the Sheriff’s Office to blame Ms. Scott for her own death are a transparent attempt to deflect blame from their own staff.

Pretrial incarceration never heals or treats people, and in this case, it was deadly. The loss of Ms. Scott reminds us all that Cook County Jail is not an addiction treatment facility; it is a cage. To truly strengthen and protect our communities, we need more resources for mental health care and addiction treatment in the community. We must also end the prohibition of drugs, which facilitates a contaminated and uncontrolled black market.

For more information on how to effectively and humanely address the opioid overdose epidemic, we recommend reading more about harm reduction (https://harmreduction.org/about-us/principles-of-harm-reduction/) and, locally, following the work of Chicago Recovery Alliance (https://anypositivechange.org). Rest in power, Ms. Scott.

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