Lucy Moss’ worst fear always was that her heroin-addicted daughter would die alone.
When she found out her daughter, who had spent three months in jail on drug possession charges, was “on life support” in a Broward County hospital, she rushed to Fort Lauderdale on a flight her relatives paid for. She hitched rides from strangers to make it to her daughter’s bedside. And she secured an emergency hearing Sunday in front of a judge after police limited her to two short visits.
But neither her entreaties nor a judge’s order could sway the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Separated by Intensive Care Unit walls — and BSO policy — from her daughter, Moss still fears Carare will die alone.
“This is a nightmare,” Moss, 48, said Sunday afternoon. “All I want to do is see my daughter.”
Moss was awakened from her sleep Wednesday night when a Cleveland police officer pounded on her door. Her daughter, Kristin Carare, whose heroin addiction had sent her to the Broward County Jail three months earlier, was in intensive care. When Moss saw her petite, 26-year-old daughter at Broward North Medical Center — shackled to her hospital bed and tethered to a ventilator — she froze at the door. Carare’s normally 111-pound body was bloated like a balloon, and cocooned in hospital wires.
“I was scared. I was shaking. I’m scared to death.”
During a visit by her mom the next day, Carare briefly opened her eyes, which were yellowed with jaundice. “I told her, ‘Baby, I’m here. I’m here.’ I’m crying, and I’m holding her hand. Her eyes closed, and tears started flowing down.”
But the Sheriff’s Office then told her there would be no more visits, she said.
Keyla Concepcion, a BSO spokeswoman, said Sunday that Carare’s lawyers are “aware of the security restrictions” in place when inmates are hospitalized. “Despite the inmate’s condition, she is in BSO custody. Her hospital room is a non-secure extension of the jail where enhanced security measures, which include restrictions on visitations, must be followed,” Concepcion said in a written statement.
“BSO was not notified of the court hearing on the matter or given the opportunity to present our position to the judge before the order was obtained,” she added.
“BSO is working with the inmate’s attorney to assist in the matter as best as we can.”
Carare is among thousands of addicts nationwide who have struggled as the opioid epidemic reaches catastrophic proportions. In South Florida alone, heroin deaths have at least doubled in Miami-Dade and Broward, according to a 2016 Florida Department of Law Enforcement report.
But as the number of opioid victims increases — and many of the poorest addicts end up incarcerated — law enforcement agencies have yet to figure out how to handle those cases and the concerns of their loved ones. “When you are poor, and you either have addiction or mental health issues, the number one treatment provider is the jail,” said Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein.
Carare “should not have been in jail,” Finkelstein said. “At the very worst, she is somebody that suffers from addiction and has committed the most minimal of criminal offenses.”
“And we’re going to shackle her to a hospital bed?” he added. “Something is very, very wrong.”
Moss told the Miami Herald she has been alongside her daughter for several years as Carare fought her demons. When Carare was 13, she had a dust-up with her father one afternoon. Two hours later, he was shot dead. “That’s when her addiction started,” Moss said.
“She’s not a criminal. She had an apartment, a car, a job. She started getting high on weed, then went to pills just to keep numb,” Moss said. In September 2014, Carare moved to Fort Lauderdale. Moss has a picture of her daughter, decked out in a blue NYPD sweatshirt, from their drive to the airport.
Moss had not heard from Carare for several months when she called the police in an effort to report her daughter missing. Moss said an officer declined to accept the report. “They told me she couldn’t be a missing person because she was homeless,” Moss said.
“I said, ‘this is her name. Put my name and number down so that that if something happens to her, I don’t want her to be a Jane Doe’.”
Carare surfaced last fall, in the Broward County Jail. She had been arrested by a sheriff’s deputy in September 2016 on drug possession charges. She was free on bail for those charges when, the following March, a highway patrol trooper arrested her again for drug possession, records show. A judge ordered that she remain in the jail without bail.
Carare called Moss regularly, her mother said, until Moss asked that she make the collect calls less frequent. Moss had lost her job cleaning apartments, and was falling behind in her mortgage and other bills. Then came the pounding on her door last Wednesday night.
It was a Cleveland police officer with a heart-stopping message: Call the hospital in Broward County. “They said that she was on life support and it didn’t look good, and that I needed to get down.” Moss borrowed the money from family members, and had two short visits with her largely unconscious daughter.
Carare had struggled with a heart valve defect for years before she became sick, Moss said, though neither she nor Carare’s lawyers were sure how Carare had become desperately ill at the end of June.
Public defender Lien Lafargue said Carare had seemed “like a perfectly healthy young lady” when they last spoke on June 18, but that Carare had gone to a hospital about a week later, complaining of illness.
From there, her condition deteriorated.
When she visited, Moss asked a deputy to remove “the chains.”
“I told the deputy, ‘She doesn’t need to be shackled. She’s not going anywhere’,” Moss said. “I want her to pass with dignity. I don’t want her chained to the bed. The deputy said, ‘If she passes, we’ll take them off’.”
There would be no third visit, deputies told her.
Moss turned to her daughter’s public defender, who turned to Sunday’s duty judge. After a five-minute hearing, Broward Circuit Judge Jose Izquierdo signed an order requiring BSO to allow “continued visitation.”
But when Moss called to arrange the visit around lunchtime, deputies again told her no, and as they had done a day earlier, threatened to arrest her on trespass charges if she tried to enter her daughter’s room, she said.
“I’m not allowed to call. I’m not allowed to go there. I’m not allowed to speak to the nurses, and I’m not allowed to speak to the deputies,” Moss said. “I am doing everything I can to see my daughter, and [they] are doing everything [they] can to stop it.”
Gordon Weekes, the public defender’s office’s top assistant, said he understood BSO’s need to maintain security while inmates are seeking medical care. “They don’t want an order that interferes with their ability to deal with security issues with people that are in their custody,” he said. But, he added: “This is also a dignity issue.”
Moss said a nurse told her Saturday night that Carare’s ventilator had been removed. But lawyers said in court Sunday that Carare’s condition remained “very dire.”
“I feel like I am so close, but so far away,” Moss said. “I want to go down there, but then I’ll get arrested.”
“There is no compassion. There’s no humanity. My daughter is not a criminal. She’s an addict.”