2nd Hartford Inmate Suicide Raises Policy Issues

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The May 9 apparent suicide by inmate Brian Thomes in the lockup at Hartford, Ct., Superior Court, came one year and one day after another prisoner died in her cell — a death that prompted a top marshal to conclude in a memo that policies were violated because cellblock “suicide tours” weren’t done during some shifts, reports the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Ct.

The memo was among documents obtained by the Journal Inquirer last month under a freedom-of-information request on the death of Maritza Cruz, a Hartford woman who died May 8, 2003. Cruz, 39, a heroin addict with a drinking problem, had been in lockup overnight pending an appearance in community court on misdemeanor charges. She was found unresponsive in her cell by a marshal who came to take her to court.

The death raises questions on why Cruz, who vomited all day, was not taken to a doctor; why marshals certified in CPR did not try to revive her, and why “suicide tours” of the cellblock were not done. A medical examiner’s report said Cruz died of hypernatremia, a severe form of dehydration. In a memo to Chief Marshal Larry Callahan in June 2003, a deputy chief marshal said that after interviewing marshals, “it became apparent that suicide tours were not being conducted during Monday-Friday day and early evening operations.” Department policy requires cellblock tours every 15 minutes. The report continued, “When asked, jail supervision indicated that marshals were constantly in cellblocks, consequently, there was no need to complete suicide rounds….The absence of documented suicide tours violates policy. Consequently, on May 14, 2003, a directive was issued which made the suicide tours mandatory.”

Link: http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=11665634&BRD=985&PAG=461&dept_id=161556&rfi=6

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