On Monday morning, police in Mount Vernon, New York discovered a 44-year-old woman dead in her cell. She is the fifth black woman, at least, to die behind bars this month.
According to Mayor Earnest Davis, Raynetta Turner was arrested and locked in a holding cell Saturday afternoon on shoplifting charges. Some time after her arrest, Turner informed Westchester County police that she had numerous medical problems, and was eventually brought to Montefiore-Mount Vernon Hospital Sunday evening. She returned to the holding cell briefly that night, before she was taken for fingerprinting at 2 a.m. She was found dead 12 hours later.
The mayor has since explained that Turner’s medical history included hypertension and bariatric surgery. No official cause of death has been determined.
But her death follows at least four other deaths of black women in police custody since July 13, shining an even brighter spotlight on the plight of black women in the criminal justice system and fueling the Black Lives Matter movement. On that date, Sandra Bland was found hanging in her cell, three days after she was violently stopped for failing to signal a lane change in Waller County, Texas. The next day, 18-year-old Kindra Chapman committed suicide in an Alabama prison. She was arrested for stealing a cell phone. Joyce Curnell was arrested on shoplifting charges and found dead in her cell on July 24. On July 26, officers found Ralkina Jones dead in the Cleveland Heights City Jail, two days after she was arrested for a physical dispute with her husband. Like Turner, she was brought to a medical facility after a staff member observed Jones was lethargic — then returned to the jail. Prison officials say they conducted several check ups on the night she returned, but found her unresponsive around 7:30 the next morning. An investigation is currently underway.