73-year-old female inmate dies at Arlington County Detention Center

A 73-year-old female inmate died on Sunday morning after she was found unresponsive in her cell at the Arlington County Detention Center in Virginia, officials say.

In a news release, the Arlington County Police Department said 73-year-old Aboneesh Woldegeorges was discovered unresponsive in her cell by deputies at the detention center around 7:02 a.m. on Sunday. Resuscitation efforts by the deputies were attempted before Arlington Fire & Rescue units arrived on the scene and transported her to Virginia Hospital Center, where she was declared dead.

No official cause of death, medical history or a or timeline leading up to the death of Woldegeorges — a Black woman — have been released.

The elderly inmate had been arrested and charged with trespassing by the Washington Airports Authority on Aug. 13. She was awaiting transport to Loudoun County for Failure to Appear charges related to another trespassing incident.

“It’s unimaginable that a 73-year-old woman being held on trespassing charges would ultimately lose her life while in custody,” said Michael Hemminger, president of the NAACP Arlington Branch, in a statement.

“Unfortunately, we have seen a pattern of practice of blatant disregard for basic care at the Arlington county jail and it is leading to deaths at an alarming rate,” Hemminger said.

According to the NAACP Arlington Branch, Woldegeorges is the eighth person to die at the detention center in eight years — all of whom have been people of color.

“It is well-established that Black people are policed and arrested at significantly higher rates than their peers in Arlington, Virginia.” Hemminger said. The chapter said while Arlington is only 9% Black, the jail population on any given day is over 65% Black.

In March 2022, a family member of a Black man who died while in the Arlington facility filed a $10 million lawsuit against the detention center.

A week later, the NAACP Arlington Branch asked the Justice Department to investigate civil rights “patterns and practices” that left seven Black and brown men, who were detained at the facility, dead within seven years of each other.

Police said that the family of Woldegeorges has been notified of her death and that an investigation is underway through the department and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Joshua Barlow

Joshua Barlow is a writer, composer, and producer who has worked for CGTN, Atlantic Public Media, and National Public Radio. He lives in Northeast Washington, D.C., where he pays attention to developments in his neighborhood, economic issues, and social justice.

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