Hardel Sherrell Act Brings Reform to Minnesota Jails

This past Saturday community members celebrated the passage of the act, named in honor of a young man who died in jail after prolonged medical neglect.

This past Saturday on Saint Paul’s Selby Avenue community members celebrated the passage of reforms to improve safety and standards for people in Minnesota jails. The legislation – passed in June – is named in honor of Hardel Sherrell who died after medical neglect at the Beltrami County jail in 2018.

“For the governor to sign the Hardel Sherrell Act into law lets us know that protest works, that prayer works and that faith works. And that fighting works, too,” said Sherrell’s uncle Trahern Crews, who also leads Black Lives Matter Minnesota. “And that you can’t give up, and we have to keep fighting for justice.”

Among other things, the bill establishes standards around mental health and medical care, and outlines policies around the death of individuals in custody.

After being prompted by Sherrell’s family to reinvestigate, the Minnesota Department of Corrections found evidence of “regular and gross violations in jail standards.” Video footage and medical records revealed that the 27-year-old had told prison guards and medical providers he was in excruciating pain on numerous occasions over the course of several days. His condition deteriorated to paralysis. A witness nurse confirmed that, even after his death, medical providers claimed he had been faking his illness.

In the aftermath, Sherrell’s mother Del Shea Perry started the nonprofit Be Their Voices.

“I felt like I was in this alone,” she said. “And I was like, ‘who dies in jail? Where do they do that at?’ And I thought to myself, ‘Am I the only one that’s going through this?’ Well, I found out real quick I wasn’t.”

Last year, a KARE 11 investigation found there have been at least 50 deaths in Minnesota jails since 2015.

Photo Credits: Feven Gerezgiher

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