Guards on leave after prisoner in psychiatric jail unit dies

·2 min read

May 1—CONCORD — Corrections officers involved in a "physical altercation" with an inmate/patient at the Secure Psychiatric Unit have been placed on leave as an investigation into the man's death continues, authorities said.

State officials also released the name of the person, Jason Rothe, 50, who died Saturday at the SPU. Located at the New Hampshire State Prison, the SPU houses chronically dangerous patients who are committed to an institution by a judge.

According to a statement issued by Attorney General John Formella, Rothe and several corrections officers were involved in the altercation about 1 p.m. Saturday.

"After that altercation, corrections officers noticed that Mr. Rothe was not responsive and attempted CPR," the statement reads. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

An autopsy took place Sunday, but the cause and manner of Rothe's death are inconclusive and the subject of further investigation, the statement said.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Corrections said that the officers involved in the use of force are on administrative leave pending review. It did not provide the number of officers, nor did the department identify them.

In an unsigned statement, the Corrections Department said: "Any death of a resident under the care and custody of the department is a tragedy and the department extends its sympathy to the family of Mr. Rothe."

New Hampshire is one of few states with such a facility within prison grounds. Many committed to the facility have avoided prosecution of serious crimes because of a psychiatric inability to assist in their defense. The facility is also believed to house rapists who have served their prison sentence but are deemed dangerous sexual predators and not given their freedom.

Little is publicly known about people within the SPU, even their identities. That contrasts with state prison, which names all adult inmates on a website.

Formella's office did not respond to an inquiry seeking more information about Rothe.

The only mention of a Jason Rothe in an online catalog of court cases is a 2009 charge of failure to report as a sex offender. That was dropped four months later.

A website that tracks sexual offender registries on a historical basis shows that the man faced two counts of sexual assault in 1998. At the time, he was 5-foot-10 and 222 pounds. He is not listed on the current New Hampshire website of sexual offenders.