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South Bay inmate in fight before death

An inmate at the South Bay House of Correction in Boston who died on Sunday was ­involved in an altercation with another prisoner shortly before his death, officials said Monday.

In a brief statement, the ­Suffolk Sheriff’s Department provided no details of the altercation that Alexander Callahan, 25, formerly of West Roxbury, had with another inmate.

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Peter Van Delft, a spokesman for the department, ­declined to comment beyond the statement.

After the altercation, Callahan was taken to ­Boston Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead shortly after 5:30 p.m., the Sheriff’s Department said.

Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said that no charges had been sought on Monday but that the investigation was active. “We’re in the process of gathering evidence, and we will follow where that leads,” Wark said.

Asked if Callahan’s death was suspicious, Wark would ­only say that the cause and manner of death will be determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Terrel Harris, a spokesman for the state agency that oversees that office, said he could not release any information, includ­ing whether an autopsy had been performed or scheduled, citing the ongoing investigation.

A woman who answered the phone at the West Roxbury home of Callahan’s family Monday said no relatives were available to comment.

Callahan was committed to South Bay, a county facility, in October after his conviction on assault and battery and drug possession charges, officials said. He was scheduled to be ­released June 7.

Leslie Walker — executive ­director of Prisoners’ Legal Services, an inmate advocacy group based in Boston — said her staff would like to speak with inmates who may have infor­mation about Callahan’s death, to pass along to his family. “In prison [deaths], families are only told the bare minimum, and it’s very upsetting as you’re planning a funeral,” she said.

Walker said that by Monday, no inmates from South Bay had contacted her office about the case.

“We do try to go in and talk to prisoners who might be very upset and who might not be receiv­ing support or counseling,” she said.

Inmates in county houses of correction are generally serving shorter sentences for lesser crimes.

“Typically they’re less dangerous than a state prison would be,” Walker said. “But there are a lot of people who, when pushed, will react. . . . Any facility can be dangerous.”

The president of the union representing officers at South Bay could not be reached for comment Monday.

The house of correction has seven buildings for male and ­female inmates serving sentences of 2½ years or less of jail time, according to the Sheriff’s Department website. Built in 1990, it was originally designed to house 900 inmates but can now hold up to 1,900, the website states.

It was not clear Monday how many inmates are housed there.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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