Joleen Nez had lived much of her adult life on the streets, as had her mother before her. Like a lot of homeless Native Americans, Joleen and her mother had lived for years on the streets of Albuquerque, NM.
This is an unfortunate fact, and one that undoubtedly helped shape Joleen Nez’ life, but having no home address shouldn’t have killed her, but it did, or at least it helped. When her summons to court to answer a ticket for littering failed to reach her, and she failed to show up, a warrant was posted for her arrest.
A ticket for littering also shouldn’t lead to death, but Joleen Nez’s did. Neither should a blown court appearance, not even when it leads to conviction.
But Joleen Nez’s ticket and warrant, her arrest and conviction brought her to Albuquerque’s Metropolitan Detention Center, where less than 12 hours after she was put into a cell, she died, about a year ago. She was the eighth prisoner to die while in custody at the MDC in the five months between August 31, 2020 and January 31, 2021.
Joleen Nez’s story, our guest today Cecelia Nowell reported in The Nation, “reveals a system of brutality that extends from the police to the jails to the medical providers and can be especially dangerous for those without stable homes.”
Cecilia Nowell is an Albuquerque-based journalist covering gender and inequality in the Americas. Her new report, “Joleen Nez: A Death in Custody,” appears on the cover of the January 24/31, 2022, edition of The Nation.