SAN ANTONIO – The family of an inmate who died at the Bexar County jail on Friday said they didn’t know their loved one was in jail and thought she was being treated at the state hospital.
Janice Dotson-Stephens, 61, had been held in jail for criminal trespass.
Leticia Dotson, Dotson-Stephens' daughter-in-law, and her husband said they were devastated to find out her mother-in-law had died in jail.
“We just felt that she shouldn’t have died as a criminal in the jailhouse," Dotson said. "She wasn’t a criminal. She had mental health illness."
Dotson said Dotson-Stephens had a history of mental illness and health problems and had been arrested before but would be quickly evaluated and transferred to the state hospital.
That didn't happen the last time — Dotson-Stephens sat in jail since July.
Dotson said she wishes family members had been contacted.
“If it changed and we had to bail her out before the process of getting her to the state hospital, we would have done that,” Dotson said.
Dotson-Stephens' bail had been set at $300. That means, likely, it would have taken about $30 for her to get out.
"She had people who loved her and family who would have easily paid the $30 to get her out of jail if that’s what we had to do to take the next step,” Dotson said.
Dotson said she is hoping the staff at the Bexar County Jail and at the state hospital will communicate in the future so this will not happen to other families.
“If your family has a mental illness, it’s not in their control," Dotson said. "She shouldn’t die as a criminal. They should die as, ‘This person had a mental illness and this is what happened.’”
Bexar County officials said Dotson-Stephens’ death appeared to be from natural causes.
On Monday, Bexar County officials stated that they couldn’t confirm if Dotson-Stephens was diagnosed with a mental health condition.
The Bexar County public information officer also confirmed that Dotson-Stephens did not have a next of kin listed. They said that, in regard to the transfer to hospitals, that requires a court order.