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Death, violence continue at Hazelton prison

Two more inmates died at the United States Penitentiary (USP) Hazelton in Bruceton Mills over the weekend, adding to recent turmoil within the high-security correctional facility that houses around 1,300 individuals. 

The penitentiary is one of the correctional facilities that make up the Federal Corrections Complex.

According to press releases, both men died on Saturday, one at approximately 12:15 a.m. and another around 11 p.m. 

Jevonte L. Green, 36, was found unresponsive shortly after midnight on Saturday. Responding employees initiated life-saving measures, but Green was pronounced dead by EMS personnel. 

The cause of Green’s death was not disclosed; however, a source at the prison said it was believed to be drug-related — an official cause can only be determined by a medical examiner.   

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was notified of Green’s death and, according to the release, no other employees or inmates were injured. 

Green had been in custody at the Hazelton facility since Feb. 6. He was serving a 65-month (5 years, four months) sentence for felony possession of a firearm and ammunition and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. He was sentenced in the Eastern District of Tennessee. 

Less than 24 hours after Green’s death, employees responded to an apparent assault. Staff members isolated and contained the incident while beginning life-saving measures on Marcelino Heredia, 48.  

Heredia was pronounced dead by EMS and other medical personnel. A second individual was assessed at the medical facility but was found to have no apparent injuries. It is unclear what role the second individual played and if any charges will be filed in Heredia’s death. 

Heredia was sentenced in the Eastern District of Wisconsin to a 22-year sentence for killing another person with malice, aforethought and without justification. He had been incarcerated in Hazelton since Sept. 12, 2022. 

The FBI was also notified of the incident involving Heredia. 

In January, 68-year-old inmate Kenneth Harrington was declared dead, allegedly at the hand of another inmate; that investigation continues. 

The prison, which has been declared one of the most dangerous in the country, has been short roughly 70-80 corrections officers for months and reports of violence inside continue. 

Sources inside the prison told The Dominion Post the facility was already on lockdown when the deaths occurred due to a series of inmate stabbings earlier in the week. 

Employees at the prison spoke out in early February after the prison was not locked down following several assaults, some against staff members. The irate workers believed that more precautions should have been taken by complex warden Stanley Lovett following the incidents. 

Union President Justin Tarovisky, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 420, could not provide specific details regarding the weekend’s deaths, but did confirm two inmates were dead, and stated the prison was currently locked down. 

According to the website, all inmate visitation at USP Hazelton is suspended until further notice.

In response to inquiries from The Dominion Post regarding this weekend’s deaths and the precautions taken following these incidents, an executive assistant at Hazelton replied: 

“For safety, security, and privacy reasons, this office does not share specifics regarding the cause of death for any incarcerated individual, nor do we comment on internal security practices.  The official cause of death is determined by the medical examiner and not the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP).”   

The Department of Justice Officer of the Inspector General (OIG) released a lengthy report last month regarding the office’s evaluation of issues surrounding inmate deaths in FBOP institutions nationwide. 

The OIG report made 12 recommendations addressing operational deficiencies and improving the ability to mitigate the risks that contribute to inmate deaths, many pointing out training and record-keeping issues. The FBOP was given until May 15 to provide the OIG with information and documentation showing appropriate changes have been made.