Medical Abuse/Neglect and Suicide





Inmate hangs himself at MCI-Cedar Junction

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 sad.

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 prevention.

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 Company

Reproduction of this material constitutes a 'fair use' of copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law.  In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit for research and  educational purposes.


     Last Updated on Wednesday August 29, 2007.