An inmate died Friday at the minimum-security state prison in Machiasport, the Department of Corrections announced Friday night.

Phillip Kay, 32, died at 3:15 p.m. Friday, the department said. Spokesman Scott Fish said Maine State Police and the state medical examiner are investigating the death and no other information could be released immediately.

He refused to say whether Kay’s death was considered suspicious, but said the medical examiner is expected to be able to offer more information Saturday.

Two inmates have been killed by other prisoners in the past year at the Maine State Prison in Warren, the state’s maximum-security prison.

Fish said the Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport is one of two minimum-security prisons in the state. Only prisoners who are within three years of release and have good prison records are placed there.

Fish said Kay had served four years and seven months of a 12-year “split sentence” for elevated aggravated assault and was due to be released early next year. A split sentence means the entire term is not expected to be served in prison; usually a portion is spent behind bars and the rest is in supervised release.

Kay was arrested in Houlton in early 2009 after he stabbed a roommate during a fight. The roommates wound’s were considered life-threatening and he was taken by helicopter to Eastern Maine Medical Center, but he recovered.

Critics say the deaths at the Maine State Prison suggest that prison officials aren’t doing enough to make sure the prisons are safe. Members of the guards’ union have echoed those complaints, saying that attacks on corrections officers by inmates are up in recent years.

Fish said the Downeast Correctional Facility has minimal security, with only fences left over from when it was a medium-security prison. Prisoners participate in work-release programs and enjoy other privileges, and those placed there “are pretty much model prisoners.”

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com