When Is Enough Enough?
33-year-old Shannon Stevens spent this week in the Randolph County Jail, deprived of his medications, and medical supplies, which led to a medical emergency that again landed him in Wedowee Hospital.
In an interview on Friday, while lying in Wedowee Hospital, waiting to learn whether he would be returned to the jail, or allowed to leave the hospital, Stevens told The People’s Voice that in reality, he doesn’t even know why he is being held, or why he was even picked up.
Stevens, has had open-heart surgery and back surgery, and has hardware in his back, including pins and screws. He takes three different medications: One to keep the artery behind his heart open; another for his breathing, and the last is a nerve medication for his back. In addition, he has to use breathing equipment at night because of a condition called sleep apnea. Stevens says without these medications, his heart and breathing suffer adverse effects.
Many recall Stevens, who was featured in a series of articles appearing in the early editions of The People’s Voice in 2005 after being released from the Randolph County Jail. In the series, Shannon shared his concerns about racial profiling, inhumane jail conditions, and general mistreatment while detained in Randolph County’s jail.
But, after his release, times got better – or so he thought. And Shannon moved on with his life…
He told The People’s Voice, “After that happened, I made a commitment to be a contributing member of my community, and find ways to “give something back.”
Stevens became active in the church, as well as an active participant in the school life of his daughter, LaGeisha.
Just last month, (May 23) he was featured in a front page story, as the spokesman for a group of concerned parents having grievances with the Horseshoe Bend School.
“It all started out with me taking my 15-year-old daughter LaGeisha out on a father-daughter outing. It was Monday, June 9. I took her to Opelika to get her learner’s permit. At the same time, I was going get my driver’s license reinstated. And afterward, I was going to take her out to eat, there in Opelika. We had the day all planned, what we were going to do that day.”
But, when the State Trooper attempted to process Stevens’ license, he called Stevens back to a back room, and asked him, “Did you know Randolph County had a “hold” on you?”
Stevens explained, “I was shocked. How could I have known? Why would I have been down there trying to get my driver’s licenses straightened out if I had even thought that?”
“I asked what the “hold” was for. The trooper told me it looked like it was for some checks, but, then, he also said, he didn’t understand because he could see that I had been to court on these charges.”
“It couldn’t be. We have paid for that years ago. That couldn’t be right.”
As the day pressed on, Stevens said, the trooper then told him, that it looked like the hold might be for child support.
Stevens said, he couldn’t see how that could be, because his child support payments are deducted monthly from his disability payments.
Unbeknownst to 15-year-old LaGeisha, Stevens was held in a back room, until a Randolph County Car could drive to Opelika to pick him up and transport him back to the county jail.
15-year old LaGeisha was left behind, unsupervised, to fend for herself with no way to get home. Luckily, she did had a cell phone and was able to call her mother, and tell her that she was stranded in Opelika.
Stevens’ mother, Sarah Phillips of Roanoke said, “Now, I really didn’t like the way they just took him, and went off and left that child down there stranded, with no way to get back home… That just wasn’t right.”
Stevens said, when they arrived in Randolph County, that is where the real drama started.
“They want me to pay for these checks AGAIN. At first they lied and said they would take a lesser amount. But, they reneged on that. So then, they were demanding $2,500.00. I had to try to get my wife and my mother to see if they could get up $2,500.00 — AGAIN. Plus, they lied and said I signed a paper agreeing to pay $10,000.00 in child support, and they are talking about holding me in jail until I pay it. I have not even seen DHR. I have not signed anything agreeing to pay $10,000.00. They haven’t shown me the document I supposedly signed or anything. Where am I supposed to get that kind of money from? It’s unreal! On top of all that, they kept me in jail all week, and I didn’t have my medicine. They finally let them bring the breathing machine, but they won’t even let me use it in the jail…”
“They said I had two seizures. I don’t remember. But, I do remember that when I came to, there was a female deputy standing over me, telling them not to take me anywhere, not to let me out because I owed twenty-five hundred dam dollars, that they were going to get before I leave that jail.”
In an interview with both Phillips and Stevens’ wife, Sophia, The People’s Voice learned that altogether, the family has paid out more than 10,000.00 over a period of time, to satisfy these 8-year-old charges, and don’t understand why they keep coming up.
Ironically, even though Shannon was supposedly picked up for owing money on these previous charges, his mother, Phillips produced a receipt which The People’s Voice reviewed, dated in September of 2007, in the same amount. $2,584.91. Yet, nobody can explain to her satisfaction why Shannon still owes this money.
Sarah Phillips stated, “I know I have paid for these same charges at least three times.” And every so often, they come back up. I have had to go out and borrow money to pay these fine off. Sophia Stevens said, we have even had to borrow from Sarah, and of course it was only right that we pay her back.
Numerous African Americans in the immediate community, who have had charges against them have stated that around this time of year, when the county gets low on money, it is not uncommon for old charges to mysteriously “re-appear.”
But, there comes a point where enough is enough. How many times will Shannon Stevens be forced to pay for the same 8-year-old charges, that he has invested enough money in, to have satisfied three or four times over?
Obviously, Stevens has medical concerns that are aggravated by the jail environment. We pray that nothing more serious will happen to him while detained in Randolph County’s Jail. But, it is difficult to predict, when personnel with no medical training whatsoever, are making the decisions about a person’s health and well being.
Late Friday afternoon, The People’s Voice learned that Stevens had been taken back to Randolph County Jail from Wedowee Hospital, to be held until court convenes.