by Billy Ball
One year after a North Carolina inmate died of dehydration following a month-long stay in solitary confinement, state legislators want to nix bureaucratic restrictions that they say hindered the investigation of that prisoner’s death.
House Democratic Leader Larry Hall, of Durham, has joined one Republican and two Democrats in co-sponsoring House Bill 281, which would require the state Division of Adult Correction to turn over copies of all records to medical examiners in the event of an inmate’s death.
In a statement, Hall said state restrictions “seem to have limited the Office of the Medical Examiner in performing their duty” in investigating the death of Michael Kerr, a Sampson County man with a mental illness who died during his transfer to Raleigh’s Central Prison last March.
The Indy reported Kerr’s death last April, including allegations from multiple sources that Kerr was left handcuffed, covered in his own waste, without food or water in his isolated cell in Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville. Prison workers were attempting to transfer Kerr to Central Prison, the state’s chief mental health facility for male inmates, when he died.
The legislation directs the prisons to provide “full and accurate” copies of all inmate records, including any made after the prisoner’s death, to medical examiners.
As of Monday, the bill had been assigned to the House's standing Health Committee.