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Southern State Prison Replaces Superintendent Again

Published: 9/12/2018 11:48:52 PM
Modified: 9/12/2018 11:56:18 PM

Vermont’s largest prison has a new director less than two years after its last leadership change.

Lesa Trowt has been named interim superintendent of the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., according to Corrections Commissioner Lisa Menard, who declined to offer further information.

Trowt replaced Edward Adams, who was tapped for the post following the ouster of Mark Potanas in early 2017.

Potanas was fired for bullying medical staff into changing an assessment of a mentally ill prisoner in order to allow him to be held in solitary confinement.

The reasons for Adams’ dismissal, or even whether he has been removed on a permanent basis, remain unclear.

VtDigger filed a public records request with the DOC for communications related to Adams’ dismissal, or “any complaints or letters to the Department of Corrections, including email exchanges and text messages, from staff, administrators or inmates at the Southern State Correctional Facility regarding the behavior, decisions or other actions taken by Edward Adams during his time as superintendent of the facility.”

It would take DOC staff 400 hours to sort through and review 12,000 complaints filed by inmates against Adams and other personnel, according to David Turner, the public records officer for the DOC. Inmate records are confidential, and some documents would be exempted.

Turner estimated the cost of this process at between $7,920 and $13,680.

“Having staff perform this search through these grievances will be very time consuming,” he wrote.

Turner rejected a request for records that would describe what actions were taken by the DOC in response to complaints against Adams.

“These are personal documents relating to an individual, including information in any files maintained to hire, evaluate, promote or discipline an employee,” he wrote.

VtDigger can appeal Turner’s decision.

Southern State is an all-male facility with room for 370 inmates and 146 state employee positions, according to the DOC website.

Adams was previously the superintendent of the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington. He was named the Vermont DOC manager of the year in 2016, in part for finishing the year under budget.

“Ed has done this by promoting staff input, acknowledging accomplishments, instilling pride in their work and their facility, leading to less sick leave, healthier staff and improved morale within all the ranks,” a DOC booklet said of the award.

Trowt was previously the Community Corrections Program supervisor for the Department of Corrections’ Brattleboro office.

Neither Trowt nor Adams responded to requests for comment.

Adams’ time at Southern State has included a prisoner hanging himself after meeting with mental health staff; a guard arrested for delivering drugs to a prisoner; and drones regularly flying overhead. He also oversaw a reduction in prisoners with mental illness being segregated into a special unit.

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