Chattanooga families claim deadly medical neglect at Silverdale Detention Center

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Andrea White, center, talks about her mother, while sister, Samantha, left, and grandmother, Donna White listen.  The family of Carol Rene White spoke with the Times Free Press at the law offices of Davis and Hoss, in Fort Wood, on August 2, 2022.
Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Andrea White, center, talks about her mother, while sister, Samantha, left, and grandmother, Donna White listen. The family of Carol Rene White spoke with the Times Free Press at the law offices of Davis and Hoss, in Fort Wood, on August 2, 2022.

Two Chattanooga families are claiming medical negligence at Silverdale Detention Center led to the deaths of their loved ones.

Carol Rene White was serving a 45-day sentence at Silverdale for drunk driving when she was found unresponsive in her cell and was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead on May 16, according to a news release from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. White suffered seizures and thyroid issues and required daily medications to treat both, according to her family. An autopsy determined the levels of those medications in White's system were below the therapeutic level.

DaQuarrius Brown, who was HIV positive and had asthma, also required daily medication for both conditions. He was taken to the hospital three months into serving his sentence at Silverdale for burglary and assault and died May 26 at Erlanger. Medical records said Brown was not receiving his medication at the jail.

These cases may not be isolated, according to a local organization that helps Chattanoogans with bail and bond costs. CALEB, or Chattanoogans in Action for Love, Equality and Benevolence, says it has had more than 10 clients express such concerns.

"During the last year, 13 people have told us that they were denied their medications while held at Silverdale, and several people have said that they saw others be denied medication while they were there," Avery Fairburn, the bail fund manager at CALEB, said in an email. "We have heard from multiple people that inmates are denied medical care for conditions including seizures and pregnancy and are even mocked by staff for asking for help."

In response to CALEB's comments, J. Matt Lea, the spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office, said officials will not respond to any claims of mistreatment made to outside groups.

"There are medical professionals and prescribers at Silverdale 24 hours a day," Lea said in response to Chattanooga Times Free Press questions about the White and Brown cases. "All inmates see a licensed medical professional for an intake medical screening and physical exam that assists in determining which medications need to be prescribed to inmates."

Lea added the medical service provider -- Alabama-based Quality Correctional Health Care -- also determines if "an inmate requires medical attention that cannot be administered at Silverdale, they will be transported to a medical facility as required."

'Really scared'

Carol Rene White, 53, was known to her friends and family as a loving, giving person who never hesitated to help anyone in need. Her daughter, Andrea White, described her mother as a hard-working woman who, besides being a nurse, also enjoyed working on cars.

Carol Rene White began experimenting with drugs at a young age -- when she was in high school, she began smoking marijuana, according to Carol Rene White's mother-in-law, Donna White. When she had a hysterectomy in the early 2000s, she began struggling with substance abuse after being prescribed hydrocodone, according to Donna White.

"She told me what really caused her problems was when she had her hysterectomy," Donna White said in an interview. "And then the pain medicine she got was done, and then she went back for more."

Although Carol Rene White continued to struggle with her addiction, she kept on working hard, according to her family. Often after work, she would fall asleep in her car -- which led to her arrest -- twice.

"She was working all the time, and so she was worn out," Andrea White said. "So her arrests are just her falling asleep in the car at a parking lot ... in her parking lot."

On Dec. 20, 2019, Carol Rene White was found "unresponsive" shortly after 11 p.m. by Chattanooga Police, according to an affidavit from the department in support of her arrest on a driving under the influence charge.

The responding officer found White "in the middle of a street behind the main office for the apartment complex," at 900 Mountain Creek Road, the affidavit stated. White's car was still running. When the officer arrived and as he knocked on the window, White "slumped over her steering wheel."

Carol Rene White was out on a $10,000 bond when she was arrested again for DUI on May, 14, 2020. Officers responded to a well-being check at the Circle K off Mountain Creek Road, where they found White "slumped over" the steering wheel of her car, according to an affidavit by the Chattanooga Police.

The pandemic delayed her court appearance until May of this year. The day before it arrived, Andrea White remembers that she was afraid, yet trying to comfort her mother about going to court and going to Silverdale.

At the time, violent attacks at Silverdale were in the news, leading then-District Attorney Neal Pinkston to call it "one of the most dangerous places to be in our county." Pinkston asked the U.S. Department of Justice to review the situation at the jail, a matter that is still pending.

"So I was really scared, and Mama was too, but I kept telling her she was going to be fine," Andrea White said.

Andrea White remembers her mother repeatedly saying that if she went into Silverdale she might not make it out. Andrea White said that her mother's concern was not having daily access to her medications for seizures as well as not having access to methadone, a medication used to treat opioid use disorder, medication she had begun using as she started her recovery process from hydrocodone addiction 10 years ago, according to her family.

On May 11, Carol Rene White entered a guilty plea for both DUIs before Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz. During the hearing, White expressed her fears about going into Silverdale because of the medication she needed to take on a daily basis, according to a June 8 motion filed by the law firm Davis and Hoss seeking to hold jail officials in contempt over the missed medications.

Greenholtz then signed a 45-day sentencing order and added a handwritten note that read, "Other: medications to be allowed" and listed Carol Rene White's medications and their dosages.

The medications were divalproex, used to prevent seizures as well as treat bipolar disorder; levothyroxine, a medication for her thyroid, which White has been treating since she was 10, according to her daughter Andrea White; and hydroxyzine, prescribed to treat anxiety and allergies.

In response to inquiries from the Chattanooga Times Free Press about the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office -- the jail administrators -- policies on providing medication to their inmates, Lea, the office's spokesperson, said that outside medications are not allowed into the facility for "obvious reasons."

Those reasons, according to Lea, were to avoid illicit drugs, such as fentanyl, and other opioids from entering the facility under the guise of prescribed medication.

The jail medical provider, Quality Correctional Health Care, did not respond to multiple requests for comment by phone and email.

When the Times Free Press asked why Greenholtz's order was not followed, Lea said, "Judges are not able to prescribe medications without a medical license," adding that "the judge's order wasn't ignored ... We can confirm that Ms. White was receiving medication (until the time of) her death."

Contempt motion

Carol Rene White was taken into custody immediately to begin serving her sentence at Silverdale, and after being processed, her personal effects -- including her medications -- were placed in a sealed bag and labeled with her name and the date, according to the June 8 motion.

"I talked to her the first night she went in and she was still in (the) holding (area), and she said they were not giving her medicine," Donna White said. "She said she was told they did not have a nurse on duty."

On May 12, Carol White tried to call her daughter but could not get through, according to the motion.

"It was frustrating on my end. She called me once and I answered it, and I put the card in, but the phone just went dead," Andrea White said. "It didn't put me through, didn't do anything, so I just hung up and it mentioned a website or like an app, so I went on the app, and I was like surely she'll call me again, she'll call me back, and I set up the account, and she didn't call me back."

White was five days into serving her sentence at Silverdale when she was found unresponsive in her cell and then taken to Erlanger hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

In the June 8 motion, attorney Bryan Hoss asked that Greenholtz find the Sheriff's Office in contempt of court for not complying with the order to make White's medication available to her.

"Hamilton County employees, agents, nurses, doctors and other medical professionals failed to give her the essential medications that this court ordered," the motion said. "Instead, they sealed her medications up in an evidence bag, ignored this court's order and failed to address her medical needs."

Greenholtz denied the motion, although he left the matter open to be refiled with additional evidence. The judge was appointed to the Eastern District of the Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals on Sept. 1. White's attorneys say they are reviewing whether to refile as they gather more information.

White's death was ruled to be an accidental "combined toxicity of methadone and olanzapine" by James Metcalfe, the director of the Hamilton County Medical Examiner's office.

Methadone, which is similar to morphine, is often used as a "maintenance medication" for those addicted to opioids as well as to treat chronic pain, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Olanzapine, an antipsychotic not approved by the FDA, is used to treat schizophrenia, according to Olanzapine does not treat seizures, according to its label.

"I want Silverdale to change. Something's got to give," Andrea White said. "They're taking away mothers, fathers, daughters, sons."

Faithful caller

DaQuarrius "Jay" Brown, 23, was the youngest of four, and he was beloved by his seven nephews and two nieces, said his mother.

According to Erlanger medical records provided to the Times Free Press by Chrystal Brown, DaQuarrius Brown was diagnosed with HIV in 2018.

On Dec. 9, 2021, DaQuarrius Brown and a friend were arrested in Knoxville for allegedly stealing candles and lotions from a Bath & Body Works.

Brown was booked into the Knox County jail and charged with simple possession of marijuana, theft of merchandise less than $10,000 and related charges, according to Genny Shuford from the Knox County Sheriff's Office.

A Knox County judge ordered that DaQuarrius Brown be released to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office on pending assault and burglary charges stemming from a Dec. 9, 2020, arrest in which Brown allegedly pepper-sprayed a Belk security guard who tried to stop Brown and two female accomplices during an alleged burglary.

Brown, who was out on a $3,000 bond from Hamilton County when he was arrested in Knox County, was released to Hamilton County deputies on Dec. 16, 2021, and transported from the Knox County jail to Silverdale.

Chrystal Brown said that her son would call her regularly from the Knoxville jail.

"He called me every day at 8 a.m. on the dot," Chrystal Brown said.

Not so at Silverdale. Several days went by without a single phone call.

"On the sixth day he called me, and I could barely hear him," Chrystal Brown said. "He said, 'Momma, I don't feel good. I put in a request at the kiosk, but no one has come to see me yet.'"

The kiosks that Brown was referring to are the electronic kiosks that were installed in March 2021 for inmates to submit complaints and other requests after the Sheriff's Office took over the jail from the Nashville-based private company CoreCivic in December 2020.

The Sheriff's Office confirmed that during his three months at Silverdale, DaQuarrius Brown filed 12 grievances, five of which were medical in nature.

"So after I talked to him, I spoke to a nurse, and she told me I can bring his medicine out there, which I took the same day," Chrystal Brown said. "I took his inhaler, and the medication he needed for his HIV."

Since his 2019 HIV diagnosis, DaQuarrius Brown had been taking Symtuza under the care of his primary care physician, according to the Erlanger medical records.

Within weeks, DaQuarrius Brown's health began to quickly decline, said his brother, Daryl Thomas Jr, who was at Silverdale serving time for one count of drugs for resale and one count of tampering with evidence, according to Hamilton County Criminal Court files.

"That experience was the one of the worst experiences of my life," Thomas said. "Having to go through that with my brother ... just watching him suffer every day like it was a real bad experience."

Thomas said that others housed within the same unit would pitch in to help him go to the bathroom and bring him food when he was too weak to move.

"I remember we had to bring his (food) tray to him because he couldn't even stand up," Thomas told the Times Free Press in a telephone interview. "No one came to give him medication, and we put so many requests in the kiosks."

On March 27, Chrystal Brown said she received a call from someone at Silverdale.

"Around 3:30 or 5 p.m. I got a phone call from an inmate telling me, 'Miss Brown, you need to get down here, he's looking like he's dying and they're not doing anything,' so I called my sister and she picked me up, because I'm shaking at this point," Chrystal Brown said.

That day, DaQuarrius Brown was transported to Erlanger hospital, where he presented with persistent cough and shortness of breath, according to the medical records.

"Patient has known HIV since 2019," the Erlanger medical records state. "He was incarcerated about three months ago and has not been on his HIV medications since being in jail."

Doctors diagnosed DaQuarrius Brown with pneumonia, untreated HIV, tachycardia and sepsis, according to the records. On March 28, he was admitted to the hospital where he remained for two months.

"I slept in that chair for a long time," Brown said. "I told him I was not going to leave."

During his hospitalization, DaQuarrius Brown was released from Silverdale, on his own recognizance, on April 22, Lea said.

DaQuarrius Brown died on May 26, "surrounded by his family," the medical records said.

Chrystal Brown has since retained a lawyer to help her fight the case.

"My son fought for two months in critical condition, and I know he was tired," Chrystal Brown said. "No mother should have to go through what I went through ... it was all caused by neglect on Silverdale's behalf."

Contact La Shawn Pagán at or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter @LaShawnPagan.

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