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Sickle Cell Anaemia and Deaths in Custody in the UK and the USA

NCJ Number
Howard Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 45 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2006 Pages: 14-28
Simon M. Dyson; Gwyneth Boswell
Date Published
February 2006
15 pages
Utilizing case studies, this paper examines the treatment of sickle cell while in custody and the explanation of sudden deaths among African-Caribbean people in custody, in both the United Kingdom and the United States.
Evidence suggests that the treatment of sickle cell in the criminal justice system is twofold. First, justice officials have misused sickle cell trait to explain away 10 sudden deaths which are often associated with forced restraint of African-Caribbean people in custody. Secondly, seven deaths are attributed to lack of provision of health care for those inmates suffering from sickle cell anemia. There has been a long series of comments on deaths in custody that cite sickle cell trait by way of referencing genetic bases to differences in behavior. This draws away from the serious issues of racism in the criminal justice system. There is a worry in failing to attend to the health needs of detainees who suffer with sickle cell anemia. Neither sickle cell anemia nor sickle cell trait protect against racism. Sickle cell anemia is a serious inherited blood disorder disproportionately affecting minority ethnic groups; sickle cell trait is the genetic carrier state, not the illness. This paper examines the readiness to attribute controversial deaths of people of African-Caribbean descent in the criminal justice systems of the United Kingdom and the United States to carrying a gene associated with sickle cell. However, this stands in marked contrast to the lack of attention to the issue of caring for people with sickle cell anemia during their custodial sentences. References