Dying in prison
Coroner Kenneth Holmes works to identify the cause of death when an inmate
passes away under custody in Marin County, California.
After 12 years on the job, he finds dealing with the inmates' families
"crushing", as they often ask him questions about the inmate's death that
he can't answer. The Coroner's Office performs an autopsy on every person
who dies in the county if the cause and matter of death is not clear.
Inmates, said Holmes, are treated just as any other person who dies in the
But the rules imposed by the California Department of Corrections and
Rehabilitation sets inmates apart. For security reasons, families of sick
inmates are not allowed to visit if the inmate is too ill to go to the
visiting areas of the prison or if they were transported to an outside
This often leaves families with no chance to say goodbye, even if their
relatives inside prison are sick in a hospital bed for months.
This lack of closure and information, says Holmes, makes the process of
mourning harder on the inmates' families.
Photos by Karen McIntyre
Reporting by Isabella Cota
Production by McIntyre and Cota
Mt. Tamalpais Mortuary and Cemetery, San Rafael, California
This piece is part of the 2010 News21 project "Behind Bars: The California
Convict Cycle", produced in UC Berkeley.
Blaise Alexander's Fatal Crash *Live*
Live footage of Blaise Alexander's fatal crash during the 2001 EasyCare
Vehicle Service Contracts 100.
The accident occurred on 63th lap, the 25-year-old ARCA driver who also
competed on NASCAR's Busch Series, had just overtaken Kerry Earnhardt who
hit his rear bumper, throwing both cars into a spin at the exit of Turn 4.
Alexander's Pontiac slammed head-on into the concrete wall, being hit once
again by Earnhardt's Chevrolet that caught fire. Alexander's car came to a
rest on the infield grass.
After receiving emergency treatment at the medical center of the circuit,
several hours later Blaise Alexander was pronounced dead from severe head
injuries. His father, Blaise Alexander, Sr. and his brother were in the
pits, watching the event. After the accident the race was immediately
stopped, and the final classification was taken by the previous lap, being
Kerry Earnhardt declared the winner. The eldest son of Dale Earnhardt was
not injured in the crash. There was no Victory Lane celebration.
R.I.P. Blaise Alexander