Gross Medical Failures at Eastern Correctional: Voice from the Inside

Listening to Kourtney Reed's story, we hear how the carceral system is inflicting unnecessary suffering that harms individuals and, ultimately, society as a whole. Kourtney's mental health needs were neglected for months at Eastern Correctional, then, he was over-medicated, which resulted in him losing consciousness- twice (see his letter below with more details). The inhumane treatment of incarcerated people who need medical or mental health care is rooted in systemic racism and is worsening racial health inequities. Is the purpose of incarceration to "correct" and rehabilitate? Or is it to inflict upon incarcerated folks so much emotional and physical distress as to cause long-lasting health effects and hinder their reintegration into society?


In consultation with NCM4A Coalition Partner Fayetteville PACT and Kourtney Reed's mother Lacy Reed, we are asking people to contact the warden of Eastern Correctional to demand that
  • Established standards of care are followed when prescribing medication (including proper titration and follow-up to detect any negative side-effects, and avoiding over-medication)
  • Incarcerated folks have timely access to mental health services.
  • Mailing Address: Box 215, Maury, NC 28554; Phone: 252-747-8101

Overview of Kourtney Reed's situation, from interview with Mr. Reed’s mother Lacy Reed, 2/10/2021

  • Kourtney has been incarcerated for 8 years. His mother said he did not have symptoms of mental disorder before being incarcerated.
  • Kourtney has said he is hearing voices and that these symptoms started after a range of pharmaceuticals were prescribed to him by medical staff starting in late October 2020.
  • Per Ms. Reed, an ECI staff member has said Kourtney “sounds like a broken record,” describing Kourtney’s attempts to get his worsening symptoms addressed.
  • A neurological test scheduled for Kourtney was pushed from February to April 2021.
  • Kourtney also is taking medication to control high blood pressure now, per his mother. He did not have high blood pressure before going to ECI.
  • Kourtney is struggling with suicidal thoughts due to what he’s suffered the past few months.
  • It took more than 2 months for ECI to prescribe medication to Kourtney after he first started experiencing strong symptoms of anxiety, and another three months (total of 5 months) for a therapist to see him.
  • While experiencing acute mental distress, Kourtney was placed in solitarity confinement at Central Prison in Raleigh for 14 days in January after being temporarily transferred there from ECI. He was transferred there for the stated purpose of receiving mental health care, and was unaware that it would require a two-week period of solitary quarantine, even though he had tested negative for coronavirus before departing ECI.
  • Before Kourtney left Central Prison on the 27 of January, he was given Tegretol, which is an anticonvulsant drug, Zyprexa, which is an antipsychotic drug, and Risperdone, which is also an antipsychotic. They gave those at the same time, per his mother. His mom thinks he may have been given as many as 8 different drugs since October.
  • Evidence was excluded from Kourtney’s case that could have impacted his conviction and sentencing, per his mother Ms. Reed.

Type-out of letter by Kourtney Reed

Mr. Reed is incarcerated at Eastern Correctional Institution in Snow Hill, NC. This letter, dated January 18, 2021, he wrote while temporarily transferred to Central Prison in Raleigh:

Between the months of August to October 2020, I complained to Mental Health Staff at Eastern Correctional that I was experiencing extreme bouts of anxiety, including panic attacks. These experiences continued throughout the month of October when PA (physician assistant) Emler, on the 21 of October, prescribed what was supposed to be a solution for anxiety.

Instead, assuming there were deeper issues besides anxiety, Emler prescribed additional drugs along with the anxiety meds. 

These meds included the following:

  • Lexapro
  • Buspar
  • Hydroxyzine

She prescribed these drugs without alerting me [of the potential side effects], and on the 29th of October, I experienced loss of consciousness at or around 6:15pm, after which custody staff of Eastern Correctional rushed me to medical.

Upon arrival at Eastern Correctional Medical Station, nurses refused to treat me adequately because of a bias and unprofessional “assumption” that I was faking an illness or had consumed an intoxicant such as K2. I affirm neither are true. A properly conducted urinalyses could have confirmed I hadn’t consumed any intoxicants/narcotics, however medical staff at E. Correctional failed to apply this method and wheeled me in a wheelchair back to my housing block.

I wrote grievances on Oct. 29 - Nov 30 that I was having allergic reactions to the prescribed meds. On Oct. 30 is when the condition became worse. I began having body and muscle spasms, rapid heart rate, hallucinations, high blood pressure, moments of confusion and memory loss. More loss of consciousness led me to Lenoir Hospital with Officer Corey and another (name unknown) on the 3rd of November.

While admitted to Lenoir Hospital, the doctor barely acknowledged my condition because of my incarceration. Without conducting any lab work or CT scans, the doctor discharged me. The doctor was so negligent in his duties that Officer Corey had to beg for a urinalysis, which resulted negative for any traces of narcotics, which indicates that the conditions I’m suffering are not narcotic-induced but an effect of the meds prescribed to me by PA Emler..

As a side note, let me also include that medical staff of Lenoir EMS stated while enroute to the hospital that she believes I had an allergic reaction to the prescribed meds and it caused a condition known as serotonin syndrome. Since then, I’ve learned that the symptoms of serotonin syndrome are the exact symptoms I’m experiencing.

Since the November 3 hospital visit, I’ve been requesting outside medical treatment and an order for an MRI and lab work to check serotonin and dopamine levels. At this time of composing this document, I experience the symptoms named above, and in fact, they’ve increased since the onset of this condition.

On Jan 5, 2021, I was prescribed Zoloft and Risperdal to counter the effects of the initial prescriptions. On the 10th of January, a med nurse arrived at my cell door between 7 and 9 pm (one line of text is missing from the image of the letter here, where he describes being given three pills). 

I’m inclined to believe at least one of those pills were not prescribed for me, as it is, I was only supposed to receive the Zoloft and Risperdal.

The following night, on the 11th, I explained to the med nurse, with Officer Hannah as a witness, that whatever I was given the night before I did not want to consume again, therefore, I refused all meds that night because the effects of the pills of the previous night has me experiencing rapid heart rate, confusion, and dizziness. 

As a result, I lost consciousness at or around 12:45am on Jan 12. Officer Stock is the officer who found me lying unresponsive on my cell floor. I was transported to Lenoir Hospital, where the same doctor as the November 3 visit refused to treat me or conduct lab work.

After barely acknowledging my condition, I was discharged with an I.V. still remaining in my arm even after I stated it needed to be removed before leaving the hospital.

Upon arrival back at Eastern Correctional, Officer Dunbar reported that I still had an I.V. in my arm. After suffering 8-10 hours with the I.V. stuck in my arm, Lt. Blut and Officer Boston had pictures of this mistreatment taken and then ordered for them to be removed.

The following day, Jan. 13, 2021, I was admitted to in-patient mental health at Central Prison, where I’m still experiencing poor treatment for serious issues, that as a result is causing me to lose the very sense of who I was before the onset of PA Emler’s program of treatment. 

These are problems I wish to convey to any authority, agency, or corporation who can, in the likeness of humanity, help me emerge from this internal conflict and save myself from myself as well as return to the balance of mind and body I once possessed before the malpractice of PA Emler.

Kourtney Reed

Eastern Correctional Institution


Text copied from an affidavit filed by Kourtney Reed on November 13, 2020:

“Between August and September of this year, I addressed my anxiety issues with medical staff who then referred me to mental health staff. After discussing my concern with them, I was referred to a specialist on October 13, 2020, that never showed. Another date was scheduled on October 21, 2020, where I was prescribed Lexapro, buspirone, and Hydroxyzine, for none of which was I given a medication summary stating symptoms, (side-effects) etc. 

On October 28, 2020 after ingesting the meds since October 23, 2020, I experienced every symptom cited in later research which stated that Lexapro and Buspar should not be mixed and when prescribed together, the patient must be monitored closely and appropriate precautions must be taken, all of which was neglected.”

Mr. Reed is seeking damages in the amont of $800,000 for pain and suffering, cruel and unusual treatment, and inhumane treatment by medical staff at ECI, along with (provoking) fear of possible death, a symptom cited in the (medication insert).