Authorities are investigating the death of a third inmate at a state corrections facility in the last month, officials said Thursday.
Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz said staff at Kinross Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula “raced in and began rendering aid” within minutes of Charles Lee Johnson’s bunk mates reporting the man appearing to have a medical issue on Monday.
“We called 911 right away and the ambulance and EMT were inside in a very short period and were able to get him into the ambulance and to a local hospital,” Gautz said. “The staff responded in a prompt and professional manner.”
A county medical examiner was expected to determine the cause of death, Gautz said. Michigan State Police also are investigating, which is standard procedure.
An advocacy group alleges the inmate died after he failed to immediately receive medical attention.
Michigan Prison Abolition claims medical staff did not arrive for approximately 15 minutes “even after he became unresponsive,” the group said in a statement Thursday.
The group also alleges that other prisoners have complained about inadequate medical care at the facility, which last month was the site of a prisoner-led protest.
The incident comes weeks after state corrections officials have said about 150 inmates were moved from the prison to other facilities after the Sept. 10 protest. Officials said it started peacefully, with about 400 prisoners marching in the Kinross Correctional Facility yard.
Michigan Prison Abolition said the protest was over grievances including low wages, the commutation process, restrictive visitation room seating, high phone rates and poor quality food.
The protests were intended to coincide with the 45th anniversary of an inmates’ rebellion at the Attica prison in western New York that left 32 inmates and 11 workers dead. No prisoners or employees were hurt.
In a statement this week, Michigan Prison Abolition said the Kinross situation was at least the third death of an inmate at Michigan correctional facilities since last month.
The group said inmates reported an alleged overdose at Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson on Sept. 10. MPA also cited a WZZM 13 report that Dustin Szot, 24, died recently at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia after being shot with a taser. His family told the station they blame the use of excessive force.
Gautz said deaths are not uncommon in the state’s prison population of more than 41,000.
He acknowledged that drugs enter facilities despite officials’ monitoring, and “we work very hard to stop that.” Meanwhile, the Bellamy case remains under investigation, Gautz said. “These are incidents that occurred at different prisons at different times that have no connection to each other. They’re all unfortunate incidents but they don’t speak to a larger problem.”