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Old 06-07-2005, 05:22 PM
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Angry State reports fourth inmate’s suicide

Our tax $$ at rest?!

State reports fourth inmate’s suicide
Prison officials say prevention measures require more staff
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Andrew Welsh - Huggins
ASSOCIATED PRESS



Contrary to a consultant’s recommendation for helping to prevent suicides, the state is screening some but not all inmates entering segregation units.

The prison system, which had 1,507 inmates in segregation yesterday, does not have enough employees to undertake such a review, officials said.

"It’s going to be very fairly staff-intensive, and we don’t have the staff to be able to do that," said Debbie Nixon-Hughes, chief of mental-health services for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Four inmates have committed suicide this year, including an inmate in segregation who hanged himself Saturday. That death, which led to the suspension of two guards, was the latest in a series that included a record 11 suicides last year.

Garry D. Owens, 31, of Lucas County, was found dead in his segregation cell Saturday night at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, prisons spokeswoman Andrea Dean said yesterday.

Owens, serving a sentence of 15 years to life for murder, hanged himself with a bedsheet attached to the cell door, said Sgt. Stephanie Norman, of the State Highway Patrol.

He’d been in segregation because of a fight with another inmate Thursday.

The state placed two guards at the prison on paid leave while investigating Owens’ death. Dean said there was evidence that the two hadn’t been doing their jobs, but she would not elaborate.

Kyle Burdett, 21, was hired in October and William Riffle, 31, was hired in January 2004. Both earn $30,400.

In a 34-page report released last November, consultant Lindsay Hayes said the state has strong suicide-prevention measures in place but made some recommendations for change, including the screening of all inmates in segregation.

Hayes said inmates accustomed to privileges in the regular prison population often suffer a shock when disciplined, placing them at a higher risk for suicide.

"Losing all that which they had earned becomes quite a devastation to them, and one reaction to that might be a suicide attempt," said Hayes, project director of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives based in Baltimore.

Of the four inmates who committed suicide this year, Owens was the only one in segregation.

At Hayes’ recommendation, the state in April began screening all segregated inmates with previously identified mentalhealth problems, as well as inmates in protective custody.

The latter are inmates who fear some kind of harm in prison.

Last month, an inmate at the Correctional Reception Center near Columbus hanged himself with a bedsheet, and an inmate on Death Row at the Mansfield Correctional Institution hanged himself with a nylon belt that he had tied around the frame of his bunk bed.

An inmate at the Warren Correctional Institution near Lebanon hanged himself in February.

Nationally, the inmate-suicide rate is 13 deaths for every 100,000 prisoners, Hayes said.

"It’s going to take at least a several-month period of time for all those corrective actions to be in place," Hayes said yesterday.

"They’re not meant to eliminate inmate suicides," he said. "Every system will have inmate suicides, particularly a system as large as the state of Ohio. The goal is to strive to keep them as low as possible."

Prison officials and the State Highway Patrol are investigating Owens’ death.
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Last edited by horsegal; 06-07-2005 at 05:24 PM..
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