Inmate hangs himself at MCI-Cedar
By Aubrey Gibavic, Globe
Correspondent | July 30, 2007
A federal inmate was found dead early
yesterday after he committed suicide in his cell in a segregation
unit at MCI-Cedar Junction, authorities said.
An advocate for inmates quickly
condemned the death, the third this year in a segregation unit at a
state prison, and called for the immediate closure of the section,
referred to as 10 Block.
"Ten block is a death trap and needs
to be closed immediately," said Leslie Walker, executive director of
the Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, a nonprofit
prisoners' rights group. She called the event unconscionable and
Correction officers conducting
scheduled rounds in half-hour increments at the Walpole facility
found Miguel Velasquez, 33, of Lawrence, hanged in his cell shortly
before 1 a.m., according to the state Department of Correction.
Three hours before he was found,
Velasquez had been transferred to a cell in the segregation unit
after a fight with another inmate.
Diane Wiffin, spokeswoman for the
Department of Correction, did not have details on the altercation.
Officials at the jail performed CPR,
but Velasquez was pronounced dead at 2 a.m. at Norwood Hospital.
The death is under investigation,
prison officials said.
Velasquez had been an inmate at the
state prison since Oct. 20. He was a federal detainee awaiting trial
for possession of a firearm and ammunition, Wiffin said.
"Every suicide is a tragedy, and any
death in prison is an unfortunate occurrence," said Wiffin. "We
extend our deepest sympathy to the family."
Velasquez's family could not be
reached for comment.
Between 2005 and 2006, at least 10
inmates killed themselves in Massachusetts prisons.
In March, inmate Russ Dagenais
committed suicide in the segregation unit at the Souza-Baranowski
Correctional Center in Shirley.
The Department of Correction, which
oversees about 11,000 inmates in 17 facilities, has been working to
implement the 29 recommendations of a report released in February by
Lindsay M. Hayes, a national specialist in prison suicide
Hayes criticized the department's
handling of inmates at risk for suicide.
"We are in the process of
implementing each of the 29 recommendations," Wiffin said yesterday.
"We take the Hayes report very seriously."
© Copyright 2007 The New York Times