Memphis’ juvenile jail needs to take both immediate and long-term steps to prevent detained youths from harming or killing themselves, says an expert’s assessment reported by the Memphis Commercial Appeal. The report by jail suicide prevention consultant Lindsay Hayes is part of an ongoing overhaul of Shelby County Juvenile Court and its detention center in response to U.S. Department of Justice findings that youths’ due-process rights and safety weren’t properly protected in lockup or court.
There hasn’t been a suicide at the youth jail during the past 37 years, Juvenile Judge Curtis Person said. Keeping it that way is one of the major challenges of running a jail with many depressed or mentally ill detainees, said Rick Powell, who oversees the detention center. There have been attempts. Teens have jumped off the second story of a housing unit, and tied bedsheets around their necks to strangle themselves. Detainees have chewed off their own flesh, repeatedly banged their heads against walls, and in July a teen cut himself with a spork. About six months ago, a detention officer grabbed a detainee who was about to jump from the second story.