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Cellmate says jail staff failed to respond to sick prisoner

By Dave Detling 5:43 AM April 18, 2014

Woman dies after spending three days in jail

ANCHORAGE –

Rachelle Hamilton knew something was wrong when she first met her cellmate, Amanda Kernak.

“She was very thin, very ill,” Hamilton said. “She didn’t look healthy.”

Hamilton shared the 8-by-10-foot cell with the 24-year-old for roughly eight hours on April 8.

Hamilton said she was locked up in the holding cell because she missed a court-ordered anger management class.

“She was throwing up,” Hamilton said of her cellmate. “Trying to drink water, throw up, drink water, throw up, shaking really bad.”

She claims Kernak received no medical attention during her entire lockup.

“The whole eight hours I was there nobody came by there, nobody asked if she needed help, nothing,” Hamilton said.

Kernak was jailed because she was found driving under the influence. Court documents reveal she had a blood alcohol content of .325 at the time of her arrest, four times the legal limit.

Investigators said she was transferred to Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River, where she was later found dead.

The Alaska Department of Corrections is looking into the death investigation.

As for claims that Kernak’s medical needs went unattended at the Anchorage jail, DOC spokeswoman Kaci Schroeder said that’s not true.

“She was not ignored,” Schroeder said. “I can tell you she was attended to.”

DOC would not go into further detail regarding a court-ordered detox.

Schroeder said there is a protocol jail staff adhere to following a booking: There’s a health checkup, and if a person is overintoxicated, the inmate is taken to an area hospital to sober up. They then return to jail.

State officials couldn’t confirm if Kernak received care at a hospital, citing inmates’ privacy.

Hamilton admits neither she nor Kernak asked for help. Still, she doesn’t recall guards checking on her cellmate.

“All I know is that she was in bad shape,” Hamilton said. “It breaks my heart knowing she died.”

Kernak’s death is still under investigation.

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