After failing to pay his $100 bail for possession of marijuana, a homeless man was found dead in his New Hampshire jail cell just four days after being arrested. With some of the strictest marijuana laws in the United States, drug arrests can be especially difficult for poor residents in their state, as they can remain in prison for almost three weeks waiting for their court date. While many of the details are still unclear, a few things are known for sure.
Jeffrey Pendleton was a homeless man with a minimum wage job who was arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana. Unable to pay bail, Pendleton died in his cell four days later due to a fentanyl overdose.
Jeffrey Pendleton was a responsible employee
According to his manager, while his job wasn’t high-profile or difficult, he was still a good employee. A homeless 26-year-old doesn’t have a lot of options in today’s job market, but Pendleton was a hard-worker. The manager at the Burger King that employed Jeffrey was surprised to hear about the overdose. Pendleton had good work attendance and never showed up to a shift high on anything.
Along with his manager, Pendleton wanted to see change in America’s economy. He had dealt firsthand with issues that many people feel are the root of our country’s problem of perpetual poverty. As the New Hampshire Union Leader reported, both men were active in the “Fight for $15” minimum wage movement that involved many of America’s top fast food chains.
Pendleton was homeless and couldn’t make bail
Many of the details about this story have yet to be uncovered. There is no report detailing the circumstances that lead to Pendleton being homeless. At the young age of 26, one would have to speculate that he did not have family in the area, or that Pendleton wasn’t close with his family.
The young man was being held on $100 bail that he couldn’t pay. The charges leading to the man’s arrest were possession of marijuana and failure to pay a $200 court fine. Since Pendleton was unable to pay the $100 bail that resulted from being unable to pay a $200 fine, he remained behind bars for at least four days before he was found dead in his cell.
County official admits the problem
When asked about the situation on Wednesday, David Dionne (Hillsborough County Corrections Superintendent) said that Pendleton shouldn’t have been in prison, and noted that the system probably needs an overhaul. As it stands now, when someone can’t afford a minor bail like $100, they end up sitting in jail for 20 days awaiting their trial. When interviewed yesterday, Dionne noted that there were 31 people in jail with bonds set lower than $1000 for such non-violent crimes as trespassing, prostitution and drug possession.
Since many of those who can’t afford bail are also receiving government benefits, their 20-day imprisonment removes them from their programs, and they are forced to reapply when they’re released after three weeks. For most, life is hard both inside and outside of prison. According to Dionne, Pendleton is the second person to overdose on Fentanyl in his prison just this year.
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Overdose on Fentanyl
While Pendleton had been arrested previously for such actions as panhandling, violating a verbal no trespassing order and petty theft, it doesn’t appear that he had been arrested previously on drug chargers, and nothing indicates that he was a Fentanyl user before he landed in prison.
Exactly where, how and when he received the drug while in prison is another detail yet to be uncovered. Dionne suggested that the drug was likely smuggled in by or to another inmate, who then provided the drugs to Pendleton. After his fourth day in prison for marijuana possession, he was found dead in his cell. Inconclusive at first, the toxicology report came back indicating “acute fentanyl intoxication.”
Local cops claim no wrongdoing
Despite what Dionne says, the local Nashua police claim the arrest is exactly what should have happened.
“The key word here is warrant issued by the court. We don’t have a choice in that. We’re commanded to bring him before a judge.”
This wasn’t the first time the Nashua Police Department had arrested Pendleton. Thanks to assistance from the ACLU, the NPD had paid out over $50,000 to Pendleton across two cases related to trespassing and panhandling, as reported by ABC News. A history like that would play right into a conspiracy theory claiming that the Nashua Police Department had it out for Pendleton and contributed to the homeless man’s death while they had him under their supervision.
No such accusations have been brought against the NPD at this time.
Marijuana laws in New Hampshire
According to NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), possession of any amount of marijuana in New Hampshire is a misdemeanor with the maximum penalty of a year in prison and a $1000 fine. Attempting to sell even a single bud is a felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Those numbers increase to 20 years and $300,000 if you are trying to move five or more pounds of pot.
[Photo credit Omar Havana/Getty Images]