Speed Reads

Prison Reform

U.S. jails may have failed to stop inmate suicides, report finds

Many U.S. jails fail to stop inmate suicides, a joint investigation by The Associated Press and the University of Maryland's Capital News Service found.

Suicide has long been the leading cause of death in U.S. jails. For example, the 50-state reporting effort found more than 300 suicides in local jails from 2015 to 2017, but that number comes from just nine states — the other 41 states reportedly did not provide numbers or offered only incomplete data.

A series of lawsuits all across the country have argued that many of the deaths were avoidable, AP reports. Of the 400 court files reviewed by the news organizations, 135 involved suicides, and another 30 involved suicide attempts. About a third of those cases allege that the inmates who committed or attempted suicide did so after staff refused to provide prescription medication to the inmates to manage their mental illness. Some jail officials argue that inmates often try to manipulate the system to get drugs. David Mahoney, a Wisconsin sheriff, told AP that if inmates are taking psychotropic drugs, "we have a moral and ethical responsibility to continue them."

The investigation also found that the majority of suicides and attempts occurred within the first week of incarceration and that many inmates were allegedly not checked on regularly because of staffing shortages and inadequate training. Read more at The Associated Press.