Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Kentucky loses prisoner to starvation...

So I just read the sad story of James Embry, a 57 year old former inmate in the Kentucky State Penitentiary who had three years left of a nine year sentence for drug offenses.  Apparently Mr. Embry had issues with anxiety and for some reason, stopped taking medication in May 2013.  By January 2014, he had starved himself to death.

According to the AP, Embry refused 35 of the last 36 meals he was served, though he would occasionally drink tea.  He weighed 138 pounds when he died at six feet tall, having lost over 30 pounds.  This wasn't a hunger strike, per se.  Embry had wanted to get back on his anxiety meds, but for some reason, the so-called medical staff at the penitentiary denied his request.  This was despite his comments that he had "no hope" and had started banging his head against the door of his cell.    

Maybe I shouldn't have been shocked that the doctor who was in charge of Embry's care at the prison had been sued 103 times since 1992 by inmates and their attorneys.  Despite the many lawsuits, the doctor was drawing about $165,000 a year and was supposedly on vacation when Embry met his maker.  Of course, the prison psychologist and head nurse at the prison also royally fucked up by neglecting this man and his legitimate medical needs.

Maybe it shouldn't surprise me that a lot of people have no empathy for Embry, who was "just a criminal", after all, and apparently had better access to healthcare than regular folks do.  By the way, in case you miss it, I'm being facetious.  I have to wonder what led Embry to drugs in the first place.  Could it be that he had no family or friends?  He was buried in a potter's field near the prison because no one claimed his remains.  Obviously, he was functional when he was on the anti-anxiety medications.  He got off of them and became despondent, suicidal, and self-destructive.

While I wouldn't call myself one to be soft on crime, I do think that prisoners should be treated humanely and with as much dignity as possible.  It sounds like Embry's last months on earth were just unspeakably horrible, given that he had an untreated mental illness.  Maybe death was a blessing for him.  Still, starvation and dehydration is a terrible way to go.  Kentuckians should be ashamed.

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