Vermont State Police investigating another death at Southern State Correctional Facility
Another person held at the state prison in Springfield has died. It's the second fatality at Southern State Correctional Facility in a week.
According to Vermont State Police, Romeo Reome III, 53, was found unresponsive in his cell at 2:39 a.m. Wednesday after Reome’s cellmate alerted staff during a routine check. Police say that staff provided emergency medical care, but life-saving measures were unsuccessful. Reome was pronounced dead at 3:43 a.m. on Wednesday.
VSP will conduct a death investigation, which is standard procedure when someone dies at a prison. An autopsy will be conducted to determine cause and manner of death. According to state police, preliminary information indicates that Reome had health problems. Reome was evaluated at the emergency department at Springfield Hospital on Monday and sent back to prison, said Nick Deml, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections in an interview on Wednesday.
Reome has been held in prison since Aug. 15, 2022 on sentence of 6 to 8 years for aggravated assault, police say.
The Department of Corrections will perform a medical and administrative review of the incident. The Prisoner’s Rights Office will also conduct a review of the incident, as per policy. Defender General Matt Valerio, who oversees the office, said in an email he didn’t have any additional information at this time.
There’s been an uptick in prison deaths in Vermont. DOC reported 15 deaths total at state prisons between 2017 and 2021. In 2022, nine people died in state 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.
Reome is the sixth incarcerated person to die this year. Last week, Alexander Kelley, 34, also died at Southern State Correctional Facility. According to Kelley’s death certificate, he died from health complications caused by chronic intravenous drug use.
Of the remaining four prison deaths this year, two weren’t deemed suspicious and one was a suicide, according to death certificates. A fourth person, Jeffrey Hall, died this month in the hospital after his cellmate allegedly assaulted him in December. The cause and manner of Hall’s death are still unknown pending an investigation, according to his death certificate.
Deml, the DOC Commissioner, said many people in the department’s custody struggle with substance misuse and other health issues. And he said the state’s prison population is getting older.
“Candidly, prisons aren't the most therapeutic environments, either,” Deml said. “They're hard places to live physically on the body, and then we factor in the emotional and mental toll as well and, you know, it's kind of a cocktail for tough situations.”
DOC and the Defender General’s office are working together to see if there are any trends in the recent prison deaths, Deml said.
The department will also have a new contract for medical services this summer.
“Part of that was really to address the growing needs of the population we're serving, their medical needs are changing,” Deml said. “And so we needed to adapt to that reality as well, and bring a new contract to Vermont to really provide that community level of care in our prisons.”
DOC’s current contract with Vital Core Health Solutions ends in June. Deml said the department is close to inking a new contract and would soon be able to announce what company would provide medical services to Vermont’s prisons.
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