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Starved Inmate Dies In Kentucky Prison; Medical Staff Investigated

    April 21, 2014
    Val Powell
    Comments are off for this post.

James Kenneth Embry, an inmate at the Kentucky State Penitentiary, died in January due to starvation. As a result, a prison doctor has been fired, and two other prison personnel are in the process of being dismissed due to their negligence in medical treatment.

Embry, 57, just had three years left on his prison sentence of nine years for drug charges before he died. According to reports, he began to behave erratically as soon as he stopped taking anti-anxiety medication in 2013. Embry told staff that he felt paranoid and anxious, and resorted to banging his head on the door of his cell. He then stopped eating most of the meals served to him. “I don’t have any hope,” Embry said to the prison psychiatrist.

By the time he died, he weighed only 138 pounds – 30 pounds shy of his normal weight, which was a cause for concern for his 6-foot frame.

Based on an internal investigation done in the prison, the medical staff failed to give Embry the medical attention that he needed in order to suppress his suicidal tendencies. They also failed to monitor Embry while his condition continued to worsen.

Because of the investigation, more issues within the penitentiary were revealed. One of the big problems with the medical staff is their uncaring attitude towards inmates, which includes the failure to check in with inmates during medical rounds. The lack of communication among the medical staff also poses a problem.

Greg Belzley, an attorney for inmate rights, said that the incident is extremely disturbing. “How do you just watch a man starve to death?” he said.

The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office is now reviewing the circumstances surrounding Embry’s death. After the investigation, officials will have to decide whether to file complaints against the board supervising the doctors in the penitentiary.

Embry’s remains were buried near the penitentiary, since he had no friends and family, and no one claimed his body.

Image via YouTube


  • bungicord

    I worked as a counselor in a prison. I rarely feel sorry for inmates but this is just plain sad. 57 years old with no friends or family, doing nine years on a drug charge and he starves to death in front of the whole damn bunch of prison officials and doctors. No one cared! I wonder if he knew that Jesus cared and loved him. I hope so.

  • Shaggy247365

    I am a retired probation officer who encountered a situation much the same as this: an inmate in prison for refusing to pay child support or his $38,000 arrearage. He finagled his way out of jail with an order from a retired judge sought by and through jailers who were tired of dealing with him. He would go on a hunger strike until they put him back in his favorite county jail…that is until the original sentencing judge brought everybody back into court, dressed them down for getting him out, and sent him back to prison with orders that if the man didn’t want to eat to give him a Christian burial. Problem solved. The $38,000 child support arrearage was never paid and the sentence was served in its entirety. I feel sorry for the prison doctor and employees here: it is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

    • valeriePollard

      I hear you. Hunger strikes are manipulative, and on that same token, those same inmates can be extremely dangerous to the nurses and doctors that attempt to care for them. It all probably boils down to the sad situation of mental illness and lack of a cure for it.

      Most inmates that need medical care are the same ones that cannot follow rules, cannot follow doctor’s orders and have no respect for others. Some are repeat offenders and have stinky pus holes that real of death from injecting drugs, diabetic gangrene feet, and will not follow one simple order. It is a problem. I have no answers. I just realize it is a problem. Sad. Just say no to drugs, for sure.

    • Noneya

      This doesn’t sound like a hunger strike. It sounds like a guy who was too paranoid to eat his meals. My question is did his doctors take him off his anxiety pills or did he refuse to take them. My mom was taken off hers and it was a nightmare. A functioning woman with a job turned into a basketcase that wouldn’t even come out of the bathroom. Her employers actually contacted her psychiatrist and ordered him to put her back on them. It was a small dosage, but a massive help to her.

      • d.moore

        I am glad that your mother is doing okay. And I totally agree with what you are saying and that is what I am trying to get the other readers to understand.

  • angelicvh

    He was there on drug charges? When they decriminalize drug crimes, and treat them as illnesses, this country’s prisons will empty out.

  • Carlos A. Moran

    Shhhh…. This doesn’t happen in America and it’s impolite to talk about it…

  • Rubydo

    He obviously had mental issues. You cannot force feed inmates or anyone else for that matter nor can you force feed them medications. I would think some organization would sue if a prison tried to force feed meds and food……It was his suicide method

    • d.moore

      But the question is why was it a suicide method? could that have came from neglect? the man only had 3 years to go so what happened. Regardless of what, the medical staff still have a job to do. It seems to me that not only was the doctor’s not doing their job but the counselors was not either. This gentleman should have had continuous counseling. read the article, the man clear stated that he had no more hope.

  • HERBERT

    The dude got his wish. You can lead a horse to water but can’t make him drink. Move on people, have another bolonga sandwich.

    • D. Moore

      That may be so, but it still do not do away with the fact of neglect. a lot of people do not care as long as it is not their family or it does affect them. It is still the medical staff responsibility to check on a individual when they are on medication. No you can not make them eat or drink anything but as long as you try to encourage the person then you know you have tried. This poor man did not have no family or anything and that is some of the reason he was neglected. I have been an correction officers for 15 years and some of the stuff I see that goes on in these prisons is awful. Inmates are there because they have done wrong. They are to serve time in prison as a result of their actions. Serving time do not give me or any other officer the right to mistreat any inmate. I am glad that I was able to make a difference at the prison I work at.

  • nuthin comin

    being a former Lt. in a federal prison, I have no sympathy for inmates whatsoever. The have 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year to sit and think of things to do to staff and other inmates. Walk a cellhouse tier someday and have a shampoo bottle of urine and feces thrown in your face, knowing the inmate is Hep C positive or has AIDS, or be stabbed or injured breaking up an inmate fight over a pack of cigarettes and see if you care if they starve themselves or not. As we say in the business, “one less to count.” They are there for a reason because they broke the laws of society only to turn around and receive more rights than the staff have that are entrusted by society to keep them locked away. Get your priorities straight and then see if anyone cares.

  • taxpayer

    Saved the taxpayers a little money it sound like

  • A father of 2

    The real victims are the ones that got fired. This inmate made a poor decision to end up there and another poor decision every day that he did not eat. We should have just turned him out into society and let them get off their meds and see what happens, huh?

  • Alan Barnes

    Who cares?…one less drain on the taxpayers.

  • truevoice

    Known fact: He had family show for funeral. They were told by the warden that he died from natural causes. It seems like the whole prison should be looked at and questioed.