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A fifth incarcerated person has died in Vermont this year

A photo of a cement building with barbed wire on top.
Vermont Department of Corrections
The Department of Corrections said on Tuesday that Alexander Kelley, 34, was found unresponsive in his cell early that morning. State police are investigating the incident.

Vermont State Police are investigating the death of a 34-year old man held at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield. He’s the fifth incarcerated person to die in Vermont this year.

Staff at Southern State Correctional Facility found Alexander Kelley, of Putney, unresponsive in his cell at 1:08 a.m. Tuesday during a routine check, according to a press release from state police. Staff provided emergency medical care, police say, but those efforts were unsuccessful. Kelley was pronounced dead at 1:42 a.m.

According to state police, Kelley was held alone in his cell and his health was being monitored by prison staff. A DOC spokesperson declined to say why Kelley’s health was being monitored, citing federal health privacy laws.

The spokesperson said in an email there is no indication at this time that Kelley’s death was a suicide or homicide. An autopsy will be conducted by the chief medical examiner in Burlington to determine a cause and manner of death.

More from Vermont Public: Court backlog to blame for more Vermonters held in prison pre-trial, experts say

Kelley had been in DOC custody since March 1, as a fugitive from justice. He was held in a post-intake area of the facility, separate from the general population, which police say is the standard procedure for new prisoners.

DOC will conduct an administrative and medical review of the incident, and the Defender General’s office will conduct its own inquiry, a standard practice when someone dies in prison.

Kelley is the fifth incarcerated person to die this year. Two of the fatalities weren't deemed suspicious, and one was suspected suicide. A fourth person died last week in the hospital after his cellmate allegedly assaulted him in December.

Last year, nine people died in Vermont prisons. According to death certificates, most of the people died from natural causes. Two of the fatalities were suicides, and one person died from a drug overdose.

The state has reported more prison deaths in 2022 than any of the past five years. In 2017 there were five fatalities in state prisons, and in 2021 there was only one. DOC reported 15 deaths at state prisons between 2017 and 2021.

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Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
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