A North Carolina inmate with mental illness died of thirst after being held in solitary confinement for 35 days, AP recently reported.
Michael Anthony Kerr was pronounced dead on March 12 after being transported three hours from Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville to a mental hospital at Central Prison in Raleigh where he arrived unresponsive.
The autopsy released last week confirmed that the 54-year-old, who had schizophrenia, died of dehydration and was not being treated for the symptoms of his mental illness.
An ongoing investigation into Kerr's death also revealed that he had been cited twice for flooding his cell while in solitary. According to AP, written policy permits prison staff to respond to the “misuse of plumbing” by cutting off the water to an inmate’s sink and toilet to “prevent continuation of the misconduct or damage of the facilities or other property."
Kerr, who was serving 31 years for larceny and assault, was reportedly placed in solitary confinement from Feb. 5 through March 12 for “administrative segregation” and “disciplinary segregation,” respectively.
Dr. Susan E. Venuti of the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office told AP that the internal prison report on Kerr’s death left unanswered key questions, such as when he last had food and water.
Last Friday, seven prison staff members were fired while two others resigned, including nurses and a staff psychologist, the state reported.
“Anybody that had a hand in murdering my brother, they need to go to jail,” Brenda Liles, Kerr’s sister, told WNCN. “On the third and the fourth, I was calling the prison and fighting for my brother. They said they were going to get him some medical attention, but they didn't do it.”
No charges have been issued in the case, but Liles confirmed that Kerr’s wife will be hiring an attorney.
AP also reports that Glen Mabrey, a Vietnam veteran with mental illness, also died from dehydration after being held in solitary confinement at Raleigh's Central Prison in 1997. The water in Mabrey’s cell was cut off for four days after he intentionally caused a flood.
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