Yet Another Heartbreaking Inmate Death

April 23, 2014

posted by Crane-Station. cross-posted at MyFDL, Firedoglake (Over Easy)

In a report titled Kentucky Inmate Starves to Death, the Associated Press (AP) reported on Monday that James Kenneth Embry, age 57, died of starvation at the state penitentiary in Eddyville, Kentucky, on January 16, 2014. There is an additional report with a timeline of events. The story is both shocking and heartbreaking and begs the question: How many more may there have been that we do not know about?

Kentucky State Penitentiary

Kentucky State Penitentiary complex in Eddyville, Kentucky, United States

Had the AP not acted on a tip and filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the autopsy report and other documents, the public would not have known what happened. Egregious and horrific events like this are not supposed to happen in this country and without documentation no one would believe it. Indeed, this is the sort of story that a researcher might come across in a history book, or in PubMed, describing famine in a country experiencing conflict in combination with limited resources.

There is a common misconception about incarceration, that inmates have access to all of the best medical care in America, the best free food, warm, cozy comfortable beds to sleep in, really awesome dental care, totally amazing, free university education as well as a collection of graduate degrees, and a whole host of other cool amenities. All are false.

Dental care is nonexistent in the jails, where the vast majority of Kentucky nonviolent drug offenders serve their sentences. In prison, dental care consists of a counting of the teeth, or a pulling of all of the teeth. All educational materials are specifically banned in the many of the jails, and the only reading material allowed is certain types of religious material. In prison, there is vocational school; any education expenses beyond that come directly off the inmate’s books. Medications are all automatically stopped at arrest. One must move mountains to get any sort of mental health medications whatsoever. This often involves a gatekeeper process that many of the mentally ill simply cannot navigate.

It does not make sense that a mentally ill individual stressed by the harsh environment of jail or prison must act as one’s own medical advocate, leaping through hoop after hoop after hoop, begging for help, begging for medications, just begging…but that is how it is. Things spiral out of control, and often, the more the mentally ill inmate cries, yells, bangs his head, or spreads feces on the wall, the harsher he is punished. Inevitably comes “suicide watch.” Suicide watch is a euphemism for the hole, as is “medical watch.” These are punishment cells.

In other words, the caged mentally ill in America are not receiving any sort of adequate medical care. They are in many cases not receiving any medical care at all. Rather, they are being punished for a condition that they did not choose to have, and then, they are being blamed for it later on. For example, the Kentucky Medical Examiner listed “suicide” as the cause of death in James Kenneth Embry’s case, according to the AP report (please. see link). Mr. Embry was 6 feet tall, and he weighed 136 pounds.

For today’s post, you must refer to the references:

Kentucky Inmate Starves to Death LOUISVILLE, Ky. April 21, 2014 (AP) By BRETT BARROUQUERE Associated Press
(note- Many papers carried the AP story, including the Louisville Courier-Journal.)

NATIONAL NEWS Timeline of events in fatal prison hunger strike April 21 The Associated Press

Kentucky prison doctor fired after inmate starves to death Published time: April 22, 2014

Off-topic and unrelated:

BREAKING: The Georgia Legislature has passed a bill that the governor will sign into law, effective July, making this the official state bottle opener.

Georgia Governor To Sign ‘Unprecedented’ Gun Bill

And, as always, our Beloved Decorah Eagles!

Read the rest of this entry »


Noah Got Drunk

December 23, 2013


by Crane-Station for Frog Gravy

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account in Kentucky.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

Inmate names are changed.

Cell 107, McCracken County Jail, Winter, 2008

Breakfast this morning was strange, because to me, just listening, it sounded like locusts devouring a biblical country. Jail eating is not normal. Inmates gobble, hoard, smack, belch and fart. We yank and choke down food, slurp, slobber and grunt. We eat with a single hard plastic utensil called a spork, a hybrid between a spoon and a fork that is engineered to bend on impact, making it useless as a shank. There is much trading, spooning, shoveling, hoarding and handing back and forth sporkfulls of food. The binge symphony is punctuated with the words, “Are you gonna eat that?” The meal lasts for ten minutes until guards and working Class D males pick up the trays.

Binge and sleep, binge and sleep, occurs three times a day, not including commissary days. On those days, some inmates binge before the binge.

For the women of this jail, there is absolutely nothing to do except eat, watch TV and sleep. Only five Class D (ie, non-violent, mostly petty drug crimes) female final-sentenced state inmates are allowed to work a job, and none of the female jobs involve outdoor or even hallway work. The remaining Class D final-sentenced female inmates are nothing more than revenue units for the jail. The state of Kentucky pays money to the county for each state inmate because this facility is really good at providing the appearance on paper of being a ‘Class D’ facility for women. That means jobs and activities for women. In reality it’s nothing more a cement cage for women.

For these women, the days turn to months and then to years, and then they are released from the cement cage into the community and the street, with nothing to show for the time spent but massive weight gain and the thousand-yard stare.

Many of them will return.

I am seated at a steel table wearing a terry cloth towel equivalent of a tin foil hat on my head, looking at some papers. The first one is a Kentucky Jail Ministries (US 42 Florence KY 41042) church handout. It says:

I once read: God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called. The world might say there are many reasons why God wouldn’t want to use you or me, but don’t worry:

Moses stuttered
Mark was rejected by Paul
Hosea’s wife was a prostitute
Amos’ only training was in the school of fig tree pruning
Solomon was too rich
Abraham was too old
David was to young
Timothy had ulcers
Peter was afraid of death
John was self-righteous
Naomi was a widow
Paul was a murderer
So was Moses
Jonah ran from God
Miriam was a gossip
Gideon and Thomas both doubted
Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal
Elijah was burned out
John the Baptist was a loudmouth
Martha was a worry-wart
Samson had long hair
Noah got drunk

Things go from bad to worse in the cell. We are already on ‘double secret probation,’ and are without phone and TV. We lost these things because Ruthie was on Sirkka’s bunk getting her hair curled for her mother’s funeral the next day. We lost these privileges for longer than we did that time when the whole cell got busted smoking cigarettes.

Sirkka becomes progressively more infantile, manipulative, sexual and annoying, until finally she and Joyce get into hurling verbal insults at each other. Sirkka writes a note to the guards asking to be moved out to a suicide cell. They move her. We do not know if she will return or not; she is running out of options and will soon have on her list of past addresses, every female cell in the jail.

I am relieved for the temporary quiet. While I do not want to attack her personally, because I like her and think she has a good heart, some of the things she did enraged me. Her food binges, for example. She would start grabbing at, asking for, and hoarding food until she had a sick amount of food in front of her. Meat patties; four, five or six slices of bread; two, three or four helpings of mashed potatoes; mounds of cake and pudding. I had not thought of my own struggle with bulimia in years, but having someone binge-eat in front of me several times a day, bothers me.

She also ate and drank everyone else’s commissary, and weaseled people out of phone time, stamps, envelopes, paper, and anything else she could get. If you were away from your bunk, she took your blankets, or worse, demanded that you take your blankets and cover her up”like a baby,” and rub her back until she falls asleep “like a baby.”

Sirkks’a latest love interest on the outside is a crack-smoking married guy with four or five kids, whom she had been sleeping with for drugs. Inside she he walks around the cell half naked, screaming, yelling, giggling, and showing tits, ass and crotch to the Class D men working the hallway.

We suspect that she came to our cell during a manic phase of a bipolar cycle. She was unmedicated. We dealt with her situation the best we could, and tried to remain kind while she was here, but we couldn’t handle her and welcomed the quiet after she left.

All psychiatric medication is prescribed by a social worker, if it is prescribed at all. Perhaps an MD or ARNP is signing off on the prescriptions, but these people never lay eyes on the inmates, nor do they perform a single assessment. Given this deficiency in medical care, I have little hope that Sirkka will ever receive proper medical intervention during her stay in this jail.

I adjust the towel on my head and make my selection from the church handout before me:

Noah got drunk.





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