Suit Over Vegas Jail Suicide Raises Issues of Mental Health Screening


A suicide at Las Vegas’s Clark County Detention Center in 2009 is kindling accusations that the police-run facility is doing a poor job addressing mental health needs, an issue that prompted a Justice Department investigation of the facility a decade ago, the Las Vegas Sun reports. In a federal lawsuit, Amanda Lou Cavalieri charges that the suicide of her husband, Michael, could have been prevented had the jail better screened and observed him. Cavalieri, 55, was an electrician booked on assault and weapons charges. He suffered from bipolar disorder and was withdrawing from drug addiction.

He was initially placed in an observation cell and was to be housed in a unit with authorized suicide watch by jail staff at 15-minute intervals. But the lawsuit alleges that staff erroneously concluded he did not have suicidal thoughts and placed him in a cell within the general population. The Justice investigation was concluded in 2002 after the department expressed satisfaction with upgrades. Attorney Cal Potter said he thinks the department should reopen its investigation to demand better mental health screening at intake, closer supervision of inmates with suicidal tendencies, and removal from all cells of air vents and other design features that can be used by detainees to hang themselves.

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