A look at hunger strike protocol in Ky. prisons

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - The death by starvation of a Kentucky prisoner has led the state to overhaul its protocol for dealing with hunger strikes.

The new guidelines dictate that:

- an inmate is considered on a hunger strike when he says he’s conducting one or stops eating and drinking for 72 hours.

- an inmate remains on hunger strike watch until otherwise determined by the medical director for the Kentucky Department of Corrections.

- the nurse administrator, the Department of Corrections medical director and the warden shall be notified of an inmate engaging in a hunger strike within 24 hours of the protest beginning.

- medical staff at the prison must interview the inmate and take a complete physical assessment of the person within 12 hours of notification of a hunger strike taking place.

- a physical and mental evaluation of the inmate is to be scheduled.

- each step of the process shall be documented in the inmate’s health care record.

If the hunger strike lasts more than 72 hours:

- the inmate’s vital signs, weight, mental status and hydration levels are to be evaluated at least three times a week.

- a weekly referral to psychological services shall be made unless otherwise directed.

- inmates shall remain in their housing unit unless the medical staff determines closer monitoring is needed. In that case, the inmate may be moved to an area where medical care can be provided and closer observation can be conducted.

- the nursing staff shall arrange for the inmate to be offered food and fluids each shift. Any refusal is to be documented.

To determine whether a hunger strike has ended:

- when an inmate consumes food and fluids for 72 consecutive hours, multiple lab tests are to be done with the results to be viewed by a medical doctor and psychiatric provider.

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