Timeline of events in fatal prison hunger strike
- Article by: The Associated Press
- Associated Press
- May 16, 2014 - 4:10 AM
Kentucky State Penitentiary inmate James Kenneth Embry Jr. died Jan. 13 after a hunger strike in which he skipped 35 of 36 consecutive meals, lost 32 pounds in just a few weeks and repeatedly reported suicidal thoughts to prison officials. Embry never made clear what prompted him to stop eating, only telling prison officials he had nothing left to live for. Prison physician Steve Hiland was fired in March because of his actions surrounding Embry's death; he denies doing anything wrong.
A timeline of the events leading up to Embry's death at the maximum-security facility in Eddyville, Kentucky, based on interviews with Department of Corrections officials and public records obtained by The Associated Press:
— Nov. 29, 2013: Prison officials move Embry into segregated housing at the inmate's request. Embry told officials he feared for his safety.
— Dec. 3, 2013: Embry meets with prison psychologist Dr. Jean Hinkebein. During the meeting, Embry asks to resume taking medications for his mental health and describes himself as anxious and paranoid. Hinkebein turns down the request and notes no significant mental health symptoms or problems.
— Dec. 7, 2013: Embry refuses breakfast and lunch, starting his refusal to take food over the next five weeks.
— Dec. 10, 2013: Embry is moved to an observation cell and tells Hinkebein, "I have nothing left to live for." Hinkebein notes that Embry has no plan and only vague thoughts about harming himself.
— Dec. 11, 2013: Embry scratches himself with a plastic utensil and is placed on constant watch. Prison physician Dr. Steve Hiland and Bob Wilkinson, an advanced practice registered nurse, are notified of the incident.
— Dec. 20: Embry threatens to hurt himself and bangs his head on a cell door. He is put in a restraint chair and tells Hinkebein, "I felt like hurting myself, so I banged my head."
— Jan. 3: Embry is moved out of observation and back to segregation.
— Jan. 4: Registered nurse Jim Royster checks Embry's vital signs, notes he is weak and shaky and weighs 138 pounds, down 32 pounds since his last weight check on Dec. 26. Hiland signs off on the report the next day without seeing the inmate.
— Jan. 5: Corrections officials take Embry off of hunger strike watch after he drinks tea. On Jan. 16, Hiland signs off on the move and note saying Embry has missed meals consistently.
— Jan. 11: Embry still refuses meal trays and prison officials note again that he is on a hunger strike.
— Jan. 13: Prison officials note that Embry has missed 32 of the last 33 meals served to inmates. Embry accepted one tray, but did not eat. Registered nurse Bruce Bauer authorizes Embry's move to the prison infirmary. At 11:51 a.m., Wilkinson rescinds the authorization and takes Embry off of hunger strike watch. Just after 5 p.m., corrections officers find Embry in unresponsive his cell. He is pronounced dead at 5:29 p.m.
— Feb. 5: Kentucky Medical Examiner determines that Embry lost 50 pounds between September 2013 and his death due to a hunger strike. The manner of death is listed as suicide caused by dehydration and starvation.
— March 5: The Kentucky Department of Corrections suspends Hiland, who had been the lead physician at the prison since 1992. He is fired the next day. Hinkebein has been placed on administrative leave. Corrections officials say the state is in the process of dismissing her.
— March 19: The Associated Press asks the Corrections Department for records involving Embry's treatment and death.
— March 26: Kentucky Corrections Commissioner LaDonna Thompson asks the criminal division of the state Attorney General's office to review Embry's death. The file is later turned over to the Kentucky State Police.
— April 25: Lyon County Commonwealth's Attorney G.L. Ovey gets investigation from Kentucky State Police and begins review.
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