NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — Just minutes before an inmate was found dead inside a New Bedford jail, correctional officers were busy preventing another inmate from dying by suicide, 12 News has learned.
Adam Howe, 34, was found unresponsive in his cell by correctional officers at the Ash Street Jail earlier this month. He was rushed to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson confirmed that Howe, who’s suspected of killing his mother and setting her body on fire, died of an apparent suicide.
When questioned regarding the circumstances of Howe’s death, Hodgson said the Cape Cod resident had been deemed and at-risk prisoner and was subjected to 15-minute spot checks.
“We don’t take any chances … because of the type of crime and so forth, even though he was medically cleared,” Hodgson previously told 12 News.
Hodgson, who’s running for re-election this fall, has been under fire ever since the incident.
But 12 News has since learned that correctional officers were responding to an attempted suicide just minutes before checking on Howe.
Hodgson said the correctional officer conducting the spot checks walked by a woman’s cell, saw her attempting to harm herself and immediately intervened.
“The officer took her into custody down to our medical unit, where she was then viewed by our medical team and she was sent to a crisis center, which is our standard operating procedure,” Hodgson explained.
Moments later, Howe was found unconscious in his cell.
“[Howe] was laying on his bunk with his eyes open,” Hodgson said. “[The correctional officer] immediately told another officer to go check on this particular inmate.”
The new details surrounding Howe’s death were first reported by The Public’s Radio.
Hodgson said extensive screenings are performed prior to inmates being placed into a cell.
In this case, he said the woman told staff she had never been on any medications, nor did she have any suicidial thoughts.
“Based on that, we would have no reason whatsoever to contact our mental health unit,” Hodgson said, explaining that any inmate who’s experiencing suicidal thoughts would be placed on 24-hour watch.
Howe had previously been cleared for released by Cape Cod Hospital, which is why he he had been processed and placed in a cell.
Hodgson maintains that, in both instances, correctional officers did everything they could to care for the inmates.
“We are constantly looking for new initiatives, new things that might help,” Hodgson explained. “But the realities are that it’s very difficult, and our people are doing the very best they can given the circumstances of having mental health people in our facilities.”