Penobscot County Jail inmate dies after fall

Posted April 14, 2011, at 1:44 p.m.
Last modified April 14, 2011, at 3:24 p.m.
Thomas J. Hart in 2001.
Courtesy photo
Thomas J. Hart in 2001.

BANGOR, Maine — A local man who was injured in a fall at Penobscot County Jail died late last week about 24 hours after he refused hospital treatment.

Thomas J. Hart, 71, who was arrested in March for theft of services and was being held on a probation violation, slipped in the shower on April 8, according to Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross.

Hart was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center to be treated for a fractured hip but he told doctors he did not want treatment, Ross said. The next morning, Hart died of medical complications associated with his refusal of treatment.

Although there has been some speculation among prison advocates that Hart might have been beaten, Sheriff Ross called those claims “ridiculous.”

“He was in a special observation area. He wasn’t sharing space with any other inmate,” Ross said. “He had no contact with any other inmate.”

The Maine Department of Corrections is investigating the death, which is standard procedure for any inmate who dies while in custody. A full report may not be complete for several weeks.

Hart was arrested in March for failure to pay a $40 cab fare. He was awaiting resolution of that charge when he died, but the reason he was held in jail had more to do with violation of his probation, according to Penobscot County Deputy District Attorney Michael Roberts.

“He was not complying with conditions of his probation, specifically failing to attend regular counseling,” Roberts said. “We were working on trying to find him additional counseling options.”

Hart was sentenced in 2002 on charges of gross sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a minor for molesting two boys, aged 12 and 13, at his Bangor apartment. He served five years in prison followed by 10 years of probation, Roberts said.

Sheriff Ross said inmates are assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine where they are held. He said he personally checked on Hart nearly every day over the last month.

“He was someone that needed close supervision based on his age and his health issues,” Ross said.

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