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Kentucky Prison Inmate Starves to Death After Hunger Strike

Darrin Klimek, Thinkstock

Officials at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville are feeling some heat after an inmate was allowed to starve himself to death earlier this year. So far, a doctor has been removed from his position with the prison as well as two other staff members suspected of improperly handling the deadly hunger strike.

Interestingly, the whole story would have likely been swept under the rug had it not been for the Associated Press prying into the inmate’s death. What they discovered has led to prison administrators calling for a full-blown investigation into the incident, which could lead to additional members of the facility being dismissed.

During the spring of 2013, 57-year-old James Kenneth Embry, who had just three years left on a nine year sentence for a drug offense, began to refuse his anxiety medication. By December, Embry displayed paranoid and suicidal behavior, which eventually led to him refusing to eat. Prison documents indicate that by the time of his death in January, the 6-foot-tall man had lost more than 30 pounds and died weighing only 138 pounds.

The Associated Press obtained countless prison records pertaining to Embry’s death, including personnel files and autopsy records, under Kentucky’s Open Records Act. It was in these records where they discovered evidence that Embry was neglected as his condition continued to worsen, with regular checks by medical staff dwindling significantly before his demise.

“It’s just very, very, very disturbing,” said Greg Belzley, a Louisville, Ky.-based attorney specializing in inmate rights. “How do you just watch a man starve to death?”

After reviewing the evidence, the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office has opened a full review into Embry’s death, which could lead to criminal prosecutions.

To read more about the controversy surrounding the death of James Kenneth Embry click here.

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