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:

Monday, Dec. 8, 2003

2 Clinton inmates die in 9 days in separate incidents involving cutting wounds

Two inmates at the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora have died in the past nine days in separate incidents involving cutting wounds, said Commissioner Glenn S. Goord.

Clinton inmate Dennis Morgan, 51, was found at 5:40 this morning locked in his single-occupancy general confinement cell bleeding from a cutting wound to his throat. He was discovered by an officer making rounds, who had observed the inmate alive in his cell only 40 minutes earlier. The officer immediately summoned medical assistance and treatment was begun while the inmate was transported to the facility infirmary. CVPH Medical Center staff was consulted via telephone, and medical treatment was continued until the hospital advised it be stopped. The inmate was pronounced dead at 7:45 a.m. by Clinton County Coroner David Donah.

Morgan (03-A-4453) was serving a five-year determinate sentence imposed in Westchester County for second-degree arson. Received into the system on Aug. 26, 2003, he was transferred from Downstate prison to Clinton on Oct. 1. His first parole eligibility would have been in May 2006.

On Nov. 29, Clinton inmate Charles Lewis, 52, was found by an officer making rounds at 12:46 a.m. bleeding from a cutting wound in his left arm while locked in his single-occupancy protective custody cell. He had last been observed in his cell by staff at midnight. The inmate was transported to the facility infirmary while medical treatment continued. An ambulance was called to the facility and arrived at 1:50 a.m. Facility medical staff pronounced Lewis dead at 3:03 a.m.

Lewis (82-D-0196) was serving a 20-year-to-life sentence for second-degree murder. Convicted in Ulster County, he was scheduled for a parole board reappearance in August 2005. In prison since June 18, 1982, he was transferred on Apr. 18, 2003, from Elmira prison to Clinton.

Lewis had been housed in protective custody since May 18 because of his claim, so far unsubstantiated by facility investigation, that he had been the victim of an attempted assault by another inmate.

All deaths in the state's 70 prisons are investigated by the Department's Inspector General as well as by the State Commission of Correction, the Division of State Police and the county coroner/medical examiner in the county in which the death occurred. By law, it is the county coroner/medical examiner's responsibility to issue cause of death.

If the deaths are determined by the coroner/medical examiner to be suicides, they would be the 12th and 13th occurring this year in a prison system that today houses 65,324 inmates. There were 12 suicides in calendar 2002.

The last death before these two at Clinton being investigated as a potential suicide was a hanging that occurred on Oct. 21.

The most recent death being investigated as a potential suicide in the prison system, other than at Clinton, was a Nov. 25 death by hanging at Elmira.

Clinton prison, which houses males, opened in 1845. It has the capacity to house 2,959 inmates and today houses 2,865.