Unmonitored Inmate Commits Suicide in Solitary Confinement

    Corrections Expert WitnessThis case involves the death of an inmate at a federal prison in Missouri. At the time of the incident in question, the man had been placed in restrictive housing under suicide watch after he had participated in a violent confrontation with other inmates. The prison had a policy in place to check on inmates in isolation every 15 minutes, as well as additional video surveillance, but the video allegedly stopped working while guards failed to perform mandated checks on the inmate. In that time, the inmate was able to fashion a noose from his bedding and hung himself.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Are you familiar with proper procedures to monitor an inmate on suicide watch?
    • 2. Are you knowledgeable with overseeing the operations of a prison and the proper tools and procedures to prevent such an incident from occurring?

    Expert Witness Response E-070896

    I am familiar with suicide prevention as it relates to the proper methods of caring for and monitoring such cases. The institution staff failed to have the camera fixed; however even then the camera is to be regarded as a supplement to the monitoring, never a replacement. Secondly, the violation of policy for the 15 minute checks is absolutely indefensible. The staff should be fired and the supervisors investigated and probably disciplined. I have overseen custody operations in the largest county jail system in the country. I have been the Director of the California Youth Authority, the largest such operation in the country with some 6000 plus young men and women in custody for what in adult court would be considered felonies. I was the also the Chief Probation Officer at a prison system with twenty thousand probationers and 600 plus juveniles in custody. I have consulted on risk management issues related to custody, best practices regarding suicide, use of force and the training of custodial staff.

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