Tag Archive: mental health

Prison captain fired over inmate death wants job back

kerrFrom WRAL

A corrections captain fired earlier this year after a mentally ill inmate died of thirst appeared in court this week to fight for his job.

Shawn Blackburn, formerly a captain at Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville, N.C., was dismissed for “grossly inefficient” job performance in April amid an investigation into the death of inmate Michael Anthony Kerr. Correction officials found Kerr dead in the back of a van March 12 after the inmate was transferred from Alexander to Central Prison in Raleigh. The state medical examiner later found Kerr died of dehydration.

The former captain is one of at least nine Alexander employees fired in the wake of Kerr’s death. At least two others resigned, and the N.C. Department of Public Safety says close to 30 people have been disciplined or demoted in some form. Like Blackburn, many are appealing their dismissals.

Although the hearing is a quasi-judicial process that takes place in a courtroom environment, it is not a trial. Rather, Blackburn was making the case he should not have been fired for Kerr’s death. Others investigating the matter for possible criminal conduct include a federal grand jury and the State Bureau of Investigation, which is overseen by the same administrative department as the prison system.

Corrections officials say Blackburn violated policy and demonstrated poor judgment when he left Kerr, who suffered from schizoaffective disorder, confined in handcuffs for five days in solitary confinement, where the inmate had been segregated for more than a month.

“Yes he was an inmate, but he was a human being,” Assistant Attorney General Tamika Henderson, arguing for the state, said. “It comes down to fact that while in control of the Department of Public Safety, a man died after being handcuffed for five days in a segregation cell sitting in his own urine and feces.” (more…)

Time does not always heal: state violence and psychic damage

Above all, I want to stress that the way in which the state uses time is a method of punishing, even before it seeks to actually penalize you, what I have elsewhere called ‘the weaponisation of time’.

This stretching out of time is a central feature of what punishment is, from the slowness of bringing someone to trial, to the trial process itself, to prison, the purest manifestation of time used as a weapon, against the very nature of what it means to be human.

My partner Alfie Meadows was nearly killed when a police officer hit his head with a truncheon at a demo. After Alfie was charged with 'violent disorder', I was so viscerally angry I stopped being able to feel temperature.

My partner Alfie Meadows was nearly killed when a police officer hit his head with a truncheon at a demo. After Alfie was charged with ‘violent disorder’, I was so viscerally angry I stopped being able to feel temperature.

By Nina Power/ From Open Democracy

The individual is only a symptom of the broader social whole. For decades now, (anti-)psychiatrists, activists and political thinkers have said that mental health cannot be dissociated from the pathologies of the culture in which individuals are deemed to be unwell.

Any supposed polarisation between ‘the mental’ and ‘the social’ is torn apart in situations where political activity puts you in direct confrontation with the state.

When the state’s actions are directly responsible for injury, stress and mental illness, it is imperative that we do not dissociate one from the other. We cannot continue to blame individuals for profound structural wrongs.

I want to talk about the personal impact of a serious, prolonged encounter with the criminal justice system, and the collective impact this continues to have on friends and family. Above all, I want to stress that the way in which the state uses time is a method of punishing, even before it seeks to actually penalize you, what I have elsewhere called ‘the weaponisation of time’.

This stretching out of time is a central feature of what punishment is, from the slowness of bringing someone to trial, to the trial process itself, to prison, the purest manifestation of time used as a weapon, against the very nature of what it means to be human. (more…)

A second resignation in inmate death case

anti_police_graffitiFrom Indy Week

Update: Wednesday morning at 10:24: The N.C. Department of Public Safety announced this morning that five people have been fired in addition to the two resignations discussed in this story, for a total of seven correctional employees.

Asecond prison worker at Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville has resigned after an inmate died while being transported to Central Prison in Raleigh for medical and mental health care.

N.C. Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Pam Walker said Monday that the prison employee, whom she declined to name, was under department investigation after the death of Michael Anthony Kerr, a 54-year-old felon with a history of mental illness. The latest resignation comes roughly a week after another Alexander Correctional worker stepped down while under investigation. Walker said no criminal charges have been filed against those unidentified workers as of Monday.

Kerr was found unresponsive upon arrival at Central Prison on March 12 and resuscitation efforts failed, prison officials said. In the month prior to his death, Kerr had been held in solitary confinement in Alexander Correctional. According to his family, he was no longer taking his medicine and his mental health had been deteriorating rapidly inside the isolated cell.

“I think he died in that hole,” his wife, Katrenia Robinson of Fayetteville, told the INDY. Family members who viewed his body said Kerr appeared to have been beaten or starved. (more…)