Black Woman Detained in Oklahoma Jail Sues for Severe Facial Burns She Claims Happened While in Custody

An Oklahoma jail is on the hot seat after a former detainee is diagnosed with a severe facial rash and facial cellulitis.

Oklahoma woman Chandra Graham has filed a federal lawsuit against the Oklahoma County Detention Center (OCDC), alleging she suffered severe facial burns while in custody.

According to ABC News, the suit claims Graham was “subjected to inhuman conditions of confinement in the suicide watch wing” during her time at the detention center. The lawsuit names nine trustees representing the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, the sheriff, the OCDC, and detention center officer Corporal McKinley.

After being taken into custody at an Oklahoma jail on March 24, 2021, Graham was reportedly detained in a suicide watch cell with no running water. The woman’s attorney, Peter Scimeca, said the water was off due to an overflow of feces and urine on the floor. The lawsuit stated that a mix of unknown chemicals and other substances splashed onto Graham’s face, and medical records show the woman was moved to a dry cell.

“She was crying out for help for hours, asking for a cup of water to clean her face,” said Scimeca. “[The corrections officers] let her scream in agony and pain instead of getting her an effing cup of water and her skin was burning. That’s how sorry those conditions are.”

Graham’s lawsuit was filed by Sebastian Van Coevorden, who said the woman was moved to a behavioral health unit where she was ignored for medical aid over 50 times.

“Time and time again, it comes from a lack of training, but also just an indifference to the conditions that Miss Graham had to deal with,” Van Coevorden said, adding that Graham’s family took her to the hospital following her release from the detention center.

“Even worse, when she’s finally released, and it’s so apparent that this girl has burnt her face off, they start trying to make excuses. And the excuse is she did it to herself,” Scimeca said.

The suit states that Graham was diagnosed by the hospital with chemical burns linked to a combination of urine and feces. Additionally, she was diagnosed with bacterial conjunctivitis in both eyes

Graham reportedly filed the lawsuit on March 27, 2023.