Report: Dying Vermont inmate threatened, not given lifesaving care

Local News
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The Vermont defender general’s office says Northern State Correctional Facility staff ignored a dying Black inmate’s pleas that he could not breathe and threatened him instead of providing lifesaving care.

The report was released to reporters Wednesday. Last week interim Corrections Commissioner James Baker said investigations were underway into the death of 60-year-old Kenneth Johnson, who died of an undiagnosed tumor in his airway.

Johnson died December 2, 2019, at the Newport prison . He was being held without bail, accused in September 2017 of trafficking a 15-year-old Vermont girl.

Last week, Baker said Johnson repeatedly told staff that he could not breathe and that “no one should die in our custody the way that Mr. Johnson passed away.”

He said Johnson’s death was a big push to choose a Kansas company for a three-year contract to provide health care services to inmates. VitalCore Health Strategies started July 1 and replaces Centurian, whose contract expired. Officials say VitalCore’s nearly $20 million bid was the cheapest of the three bidders.

Among the recommendations by Defender General Matthew Valerio is that Centurian be held accountable and staff actions be reviewed for misconduct and licensed professionals be appropriately disciplined.

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