Courts & Corrections

Inmate attempts suicide at Southern State Correctional Facility, officials say

The Defender General’s Office and the Vermont State Police are investigating an attempted suicide by an inmate at Southern State Correctional Facility last week, officials said Monday.

Patrick Fennessey, 32, an inmate at the Vermont state prison in Springfield, attempted to hang himself Friday, Department of Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito confirmed by email.

Fennessey is receiving treatment at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, Pallito confirmed. Pallito said he could not comment on Fennessey’s condition, but did confirm as of Monday that Fennessey was alive.

Fennessey is serving a sentence of between 26 months and 10 years. He was convicted of burglary and unlawful trespass.

There will be an investigation by the Vermont State Police, which Pallito noted is standard. The case has also been referred to the Agency of Human Services Investigations Unit, which handles internal, labor-related investigations within the agency.

“Although all indications are a suicide (attempt), we can’t be sure and so these are treated as a crime scene,” Pallito stated in an email.

Defender General Matt Valerio said that he learned that there had been a suicide attempt at Southern State on Friday morning and assigned an investigator to look into the incident that day.

The investigation will take note of whether the suicide attempt was preventable, as well as whether there were “signs that could have, that should have been picked up on that weren’t,” Valerio said.

The number of self-inflicted harm incidents across the Vermont corrections system has been rising over recent years, from 408 incidents in FY 2008 to 634 in FY 2014, according to DOC documents. The majority of cases are classified as “low lethality,” which include threats of self-harm and injuries that do not require medical care from outside the prison.

There were two suicides in the state correctional system in FY 2014, and seven “high lethality” cases. There had not been a suicide in Vermont prisons for at least six years prior to that.

In an email statement, Dr. Dee Burroughs-Biron, director of the DOC’s health division, said that the department does “an excellent job” preventing suicides in the prison population.

“We have been well below Vermont as a whole and many other correctional jurisdictions,” Burroughs-Biron stated.

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Elizabeth Hewitt

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  • Char Osterlund

    Patrick Fennessey was a fine young man. He was bright, witty and definitely a personality. RIP Patrick.

  • Nina Bartlett

    What about the suicide on August 30, 2013 by Robert Mossey?