Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

New York State
Department of Correctional Services
Glenn S. Goord, Commissioner

Office of Public Information
[518] 457-8182

For immediate release:

Thursday, July 17, 1997

Mohawk Correctional Facility inmate hangs self in cell

ROME - An inmate at the Mohawk Correctional Facility hung himself Thursday in his cell using his bedsheet.

Inmate Josiah Benefield was found hanging in his cell in the facility's Special Housing Unit (SHU) at 2:35 p.m. by a Correction Officer making rounds of the area. The bedsheet was attached to a wire ceiling box that covers the cell's smoke detector and around Benefield's neck. Additional Officers responded to the cell and the inmate was cut down. Attempts by the Officers and medical staff to revive Benefield were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at the scene at 2:58 p.m.

Benefield was last seen alive in his cell at 2:10 p.m. by a Correction Officer. The cause of death has not been determined, pending the results of an autopsy at St. Elizabeth's Hospital.

Benefield, 22, was serving a term of four to eight years for two 1996 convictions out of Erie County: second-degree robbery and second-degree attempted robbery. He was received into the state prison system on Oct. 30, 1996, and had been an inmate at Mohawk since Jan. 27. Benefield would have been eligible for parole on June 9, 1998. His conditional release date was Oct. 9, 1999, and his maximum term would have expired June 9, 2002.

Benefield was being held in an SHU cell because of assorted disciplinary infractions, including fighting, violent conduct and creating a disturbance. SHU inmates are confined to their cells 23 hours a day with one hour of court-mandated recreation.

The hanging is the third suicide in the state prison system this year. The last suicide, also a hanging, occurred April 7 at Auburn Correctional Facility in Cayuga County. The last suicide at Mohawk, also a hanging, occurred July 16, 1993.

There were 12 suicides in the state prison system last year.

Mohawk, a medium-security prison in Oneida County, opened in 1989. It currently houses 1,312 inmates.