A North Carolina inmate suffering from mental illness died of thirst after being held in solitary confinement for 35 days, ABC News reports.
On March 12, Michael Anthony Kerr, 54-years-old, was found unresponsive at the back of a van after he was driven for three hours to a mental hospital at Central Prison in Raleigh from the Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville. Kerr’s autopsy report, which was released early this week, stated that the schizophrenic inmate died of dehydration.
Prison records state that Kerr was cited twice for flooding his own cell. According to the policies of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, prison staff can turn off the water to an inmates toilet and sink when an inmate misuses the plumbing facilities.
The public records that were released show that Kerr was placed in solitary confinement on February 5. He was also cited nine times for tampering with his cell locks, disobeying orders, and violating prison rules. The flooding occurred twice, on February 21 and on February 24. Because of his behavior, Kerr was transferred to another solitary confinement that inmates call “The Hole” on February 25.
Yahoo News reports that while inmates are in solitary confinement, they are sometimes deprived of needs including mattresses and the standard prison food.
Kerr’s autopsy was done by Dr. Susan E. Venuti of the North Carolina Medial Examiner’s Office. Venuti said that her report had some missing answers, including the day when Kerr last had water and food. Since the information was missing, Venuti could not determine if Kerr’s dehydration should be categorized as homicide, accidental, or natural.
“The nature of dehydration, whether as a result of fluids being withheld, or the decedent’s refusal of fluids, or other possible factors, is unclear. Since the circumstances surrounding the development of dehydration leading to the death in this incarcerated adult are uncertain, the manner of death is best classified as Undetermined.”
Since Kerr’s death, the State Bureau of Investigation and North Carolina prison officials have been investigating, but details are yet to be released to the public. Seven employees at the Alexander Correctional Institution have already been fired or have resigned throughout the months, including a psychologist, nurses, and a guard captain. However, it is not yet confirmed whether these actions were caused by Kerr’s death.
Kerr’s prison records say he was convicted for illegally possessing and discharging a firearm as well as larceny. He was sentenced in 2011 to 31 years in prison.
Raleigh’s Central Prison also had a similar incident in 1997 when Glen Mabrey, a Vietnam veteran inmate suffering from mental illness, died from dehydration after being in solitary confinement.
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