Only In America: Utah Man Dies In Police Custody After Being Jailed For Failing To Pay Medical Bill


The horrible nature of the American medical system is the stuff of legends, but when it intersects with our broken legal system, things get much uglier — and it tragically cost a Utah man his life.

“Blood out of a turnip”

The American system is biased in favor of people with money. Those who have no money can count on having Orwell’s famous boot smashing on their face for the rest of their lives — which can be cut tragically short at any time.

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Rex Iverson incurred a $2,376.92 ambulance bill on Christmas Eve of 2013. It was a bill that he couldn’t pay back, so the city took him to a “justice court” over the bill and won.

Their victory was hollow. Despite an attempt to garnish his wages — non-existent wages, as the city treasurer Sharri Oyler noted “he didn’t have a job” — there was little that could be done in the way of getting the money back. He never paid the bill, and despite reported court orders to appear, never did.

That led to the Box Elder County’s sheriff’s deputy serving a $350 bench warrant issued by the “justice court” on December 29 of 2015. He was arrested on the morning of Saturday, January 23.

He was dead on the morning of Sunday, January 24, without so much as having been booked.

“How can you get blood out of a turnip?” Josh Daniels of the Utah-based Libertas Institute asked, adding, “The thing about going to jail, your time does not pay your debt . . .  A person should be obliged to pay, but putting him in jail doesn’t solve the problem.”

While Iverson is probably the first to die in custody in Box Elder County under these circumstances, he’s not the first to be serviced with a civil bench warrant. Since January 1, 2013, nearly 13 people have been booked in jail on these warrants. About half are from private debts.

This is only going to get worse. As more people sink into debt and are unable to escape, we’re going to see this more and more — and these sorts of tragic stories are only going to become more common.


Feature image via Raw Story

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