Human Rights

Dehydration Death of North Carolina Prisoner Prompts Investigations, Firings, Resignations

A North Carolina prisoner with a history of mental illness who was found dead in a transport van after being transferred to another prison died due to dehydration, according to the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office.

However, the state pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Michael Anthony Kerr, 54, said records provided by the Department of Public Safety were so scanty and incomplete that she was unable to determine whether his death was accidental, a suicide or a homicide.

Prison records indicate that Kerr was held in solitary confinement for 35 days prior to his death and had spent the last five days of his life handcuffed and largely unresponsive. Prison officials repeatedly turned off the water to his cell because he had flooded it, and put him on a diet of milk and nutraloaf. The milk was later ordered withheld.

“They treated him like a dog,” said Kerr’s sister, Brenda Liles.

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The Prison Problem

One of the best videos about the problem of mass incarceration in the United States.  Being tough on crime is not the same as being tough on criminals.  Mass incarceration is a waste of money and a waste of people.

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An Interview with Noam Chomsky on Criminal Justice and Human Rights

By Prison Legal News

On February 5, 2014, Prison Legal News editor Paul Wright interviewed Noam Chomsky, 85, at his home in Lexington, Massachusetts. Professor Chomsky is the foremost dissident intellectual in the United States, and for decades has been a prominent critic of U.S. foreign policy, human rights abuses, imperialism and the media’s facilitation of same. He is also one of the world’s eminent linguists and has been a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1955. He was arrested and jailed for anti-war activism in the 1960s.

The author of dozens of books on politics, media analysis, foreign policy and other issues, Professor Chomsky was also one of PLN’s earliest subscribers and has corresponded with Paul on various topics since the early 1990s. However, in his books, essays and interviews, Professor Chomsky has rarely addressed human rights abuses in the United States with respect to policing and prisons – until now.

While Professor Chomsky agreed to be interviewed by PLN, scheduling was difficult due to his extensive travel and speaking schedule. It turned out that the day of the interview was also the day a massive snowstorm hit Boston, and he did not come into work. He graciously agreed to conduct the interview at his home, and Paul and PLN advertising director Susan Schwartzkopf made an adventurous cab ride through the snowstorm to his house.

We extend our thanks to Professor Chomsky for this interview and to his assistant, Beverly Stohl, for making the necessary arrangements.

• • •

PAUL WRIGHT: I think one of the things that’s interesting is I’ve been reading your work since I was in high school, and I would say that for at least 30 years now, 30-plus years, I’ve been reading your work and all the interviews that you’ve done, and very few people ever ask you about domestic issues.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Really?

PW: Yes. About domestic stuff, in terms of … you know, they ask you about human rights in other countries, but not about human rights in this country. I think you did one interview in the mid-90s which we reprinted in Prison Legal News.

NC: There are many. I don’t know what happens to them. There are so many, I can’t keep track. There’s several a day.

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