Jail is very bad

Abby Rudolph's death sounds like it was awful... and avoidable.

Abby Rudolph's death sounds like it was awful... and avoidable. Karen Stroh

Abby Rudolph, 19, was arrested for shoplifting in 2016.


Who could've possibly imagined such a minor happening was a death sentence for Rudolph, a resident of Moorhead and described in an online obituary as "artistic and creative with blue eyes that smiled and lit up a room." 

Abby had developed a drug addiction after suffering a hip injury, per a story by Forum News Service, which details the grim aftermath of Rudolph's arrest the day before Halloween. Picked up for theft, Rudolph went into withdrawal while in the Clay County Jail.

Rudolph's condition soon took a turn for the worse, as noticed by other inmates, who, according to a lawsuit filed by Rudolph's family, asked jail staff to do something for the teenager. Rudolph had been in for just one day when people wrote a note to her jailers saying she wasn't doing well.

And yet it was several days later, as Rudolph refused food, threw up, and grew weaker, that an employee and a nurse "noted that Rudolph appeared sluggish and was cool to the touch," the Herald reports. That was the beginning of the end for Abby Rudolph, a user of pain pills and, on at least one occasion, a shoplifter. (A search of Minnesota court records doesn't indicate Rudolph had other arrests on her record.)

Rudolph was taken to the jail's shower, but had by that time lost control of her body, which jerked sporadically, and was "catatonic,"  her family's lawsuit states.

Medics arrived but it was too late. Rudolph was declared dead on the afternoon of November 3, fully four days after fellow arrestees told the jail this young woman they'd just met needed help. She died of bronchopneumonia, according to her death certificate, which the Herald characterizes this way:

"The certificate lists the manner of Rudolph's death as natural and indicates neither injury nor trauma contributed to her death."

Dear God. Now who seems like they're "cool to the touch"?

In a shocking turn of events, a subsequent Minnesota Department of Corrections investigation determined no one did anything wrong. Rudolph's treatment was not just compassionate but "very compassionate," the report states, and staff acted not just professionally but "very professionally."

Sure, a small amount of retraining is in order, that report determined, but there was evidently not much more that could've been done in the 100 or so hours between the time wardens got a note about Rudolph and the moment she died in the parking lot outside. Nothing at all.

If this feels like a bit of a gut punch, here's a couple paragraphs to make sure your Monday morning includes some bitter rage:

Rudolph's mother, Jill Rudolph, who filed the wrongful death lawsuit in early 2018, died in December 2018 at the age of 52. In an interview, Craig Casler said it's believed his sister, Abby's mother, likely died of a medical condition after lying down to take a nap, but he suspects there was more to it than that.
"She died of grief. She could not go on," said Casler, who feels his sister simply could not endure another Christmas without Abby.

Maybe we're just biased because we care about people more than property, but if you ask us, there are worse sins than shoplifting. Like letting someone die.