Exclusive: Pamela Foster, Widow of Glenn Foster Jr., Talks Investigation Concerns And Mental Health Advocacy
"It could very easily be your husband, your sibling, your child, cousin, nephew — it could be anyone."
January 21, 2022 at 2:30 am
Pamela Foster’s husband, former NFL player Glenn Foster Jr., died in December while in police custody. Now, the bereaved mother of four is seeking transparency from investigators and advocating for better mental health care in the prison system.
Glenn was likely experiencing a mental health crisis.
On Dec. 6, the former New Orleans Saints defensive lineman died while in custody near Tuscaloosa, Ala., as Blavity previously reported. He had been arrested two days earlier on three counts of reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and attempt to elude, according to the Associated Press. Once notified of his arrest, the family arrived intent on posting bail and bringing him to a mental health facility, as they assumed he had been experiencing a crisis per the erratic behavior police reported to them. Glenn had been previously diagnosed with mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder, his parents told the Associated Press.
His bail was denied as the family was told that Glenn had gotten into an altercation with another incarcerated person. Given those details, the family requested that Pickens County send Glenn to a medical facility for treatment. This request was finally granted on Monday, Dec. 6. Per AP, Glenn’s legal team noted that he entered a police cruiser in healthy condition, but arrived at the medical facility unresponsive. The family was never granted permission to see him due to COVID-19 protocols. The 31-year-old was later pronounced dead.
“It's almost like it’s just set up to fail.”
Glenn’s family felt helpless as they looked for ways to get him the mental health support they’d wanted him to receive, but the jail system didn’t seem to have protocols in place.
“There aren’t any [procedures] and if there are, they don’t seem to be available,” Pamela told Blavity. “I kept asking for help. I was researching, looking for resources on what can we do in the situation. We knew what situation we were in, however, there was still nothing we could have done to help the situation. The setting he was in, definitely was not helpful with what was going on. It’s almost like it’s just set up to fail. That’s not a place where you’re going to be able to get help.”
She called the lack of policies a disservice to everyone involved.
“From the security guards who are working in there, any service providers, the nurses, to the inmates and their families — I mean, it affects everybody.”
“I’m sure we all know someone who suffers from mental illness.”
“A lot of people suffer from mental illness — one in five [adults in the U.S.], I believe is the number — this can happen to anyone,” Pamela said.
The American Psychological Association reports that data show mental health concerns among 64% of those incarcerated in jail, 54% of those incarcerated in state prison and 45% of those incarcerated in federal prison, per VeryWellMind.
“It’s a very small number,” Pamela said. “I’m sure we all know someone who suffers from mental illness, and we probably know someone within our family — it could very easily be your husband, your sibling, your child, cousin, nephew — it could be anyone. We need to normalize and just keep talking about and raising awareness for mental health. Start those discussions and it will help with the change and the policies that are needed.”
“We need transparency and accountability for what happened.”
“Evidence of strangulation” was cited by an independent autopsy, per NBC News.
"Glenn Foster Jr.'s death, while in the Pickens County sheriff's custody and care, was not from natural causes as the independent autopsy suggests there was some evidence of neck compressions and strangulation,” a statement from the family’s legal team reads. “As we continue to investigate the case, we are learning that Mr. Foster’s death in Pickens County appears to be part of a disturbing trend of Black men dying while in the custody of the Pickens County Sheriff's Office. Keeping people in your custody alive is literally the lowest bar we can set for a law enforcement agency, and is something that the Pickens County Sheriff's Office failed to do. Pickens County owes the family the truth relating to Mr. Foster's tragic death. These findings are deeply concerning…”
The Alabama State Bureau of Investigation, the authorities handling the investigation as an in-custody death, have not been forthcoming, with very few details being made available to the family.
Pamela said she feels like authorities are being misleading, presenting her with a lack of information.
“At this point, we just want answers,” Pamela said. “There’s still a lot of mystery and no answers from the department where this happened. And, we can’t move forward. We can’t do anything. We need transparency and accountability for what happened. And, of course, we want justice.”
“Demand change because change does need to happen.”
Pamela told Blavity the biggest thing people can do to help is to stay involved with the case.
“Stay aware of what’s happening,” she said. “That way as things move forward we can see the change and we can ask and demand change because change does need to happen. There needs to be change in the policies and the practice of the laws.”
“Glenn was a great example of how much you can overcome.”
While there’s a lot that Pamela would like everyone to know about Glenn, a fond memory that came to her was how much he enjoyed life.
“He just lived life to the fullest,” she said. “He really wanted the best for everyone, even people he didn’t know. He just loved being positive and creating that positive circle and letting people know that being successful, being your best self, just achieving your goals — do something that makes you proud to be you, whatever that is. And even with adversity, I think Glenn was a great example of how much you can overcome and how you can use it as lessons to keep pushing and thriving.”
She said he was also adamant about keeping family first.
“He was extremely family-oriented and that went beyond our household,” she said. “It was with me and the girls, his parents, his sisters, cousins, friends — no distant titles. He had a way of building unique relationships with people that just create love — just for accepting people for who they are and embracing that.”
If you want to continue following Glenn’s story or assist in advocating for better mental health care in jails and prisons, visit Glenn’s website, which has been revised to spotlight case information and honor his legacy.