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Medical report shows inmate overdosed on antidepressants - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Medical report shows inmate overdosed on antidepressants

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Shayn Turner Shayn Turner
ST. ALBANS, Vt. - Corrections officials are investigating how a convicted sex offender killed himself in prison. It's the second suicide behind bars in Vermont in less than a year

Shayn Turner, 44, had just started to serve a 40-year sentence at the prison in St. Albans for repeatedly raping a 7-year-old girl.

New information from the medical examiner shows Turner overdosed on a prescription antidepressant back in March.

"We have a protocol where we check inmates on a medline, flashlight in their mouth, make sure they swallow," said Andy Pallito, Vermont Corrections commissioner.

But it appears Turner may have tricked officers and possibly hoarded his pills for a week to take them all at once ending his life.

An independent investigation is underway and Pallito says his department is looking at personnel too.

"Often when we have incidents like this, there's something we could do, could have done better. Preventing all suicides is nearly impossible... our goal is zero," said Pallito.

Turner's suicide is the second in Vermont prisons over a seven month span. In August of last year, R.J. Mossey used a bed sheet to hang himself inside an unlocked mop closet at the Northern State Correctional facility in Newport.

The two suicides end a nearly decade-long streak of no suicides in Vermont jails.

"The frustrating thing about this case is it's really hard to prevent, it's really hard to prevent somebody who completely intends on committing suicide," said Pallito.

The Vermont Corrections Department is seeing a rise in self-harm incidents. They've steadily increased since 2008. There were 601 reported last year, which is a 15 percent jump from 2012.

And 80 percent of Vermont's 2,151 inmates housed in-state last year struggled with addiction.

More than one-third, about 750, took medication for addiction, behavioral problems or mental illness.

"Our staff are used to dealing with, traditionally, high levels of violence and criminal activity, this is not necessarily that crowd," said Pallito.

Mossey's suicide led to security improvements at the Newport prison. For example, limiting areas inmate can go.

But Commissioner Pallito says the facility remains understaffed despite pleas with lawmakers and the Shumlin Adminstration. One officer oversaw 72 inmates in the cell block where Mossey died.

The Legislature did approve studying staffing levels at all prisons in Vermont. That report is due to lawmakers in January.

"The flow that we have and the type of people we have come through our system, I think there has to be some acceptance that they have a lot of challenges," said Pallito.

The prisoner's rights office is in the middle of its investigation into Turner's suicide in St. Albans. The defender general's report is expected in the next couple of months.

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