Washington, D.C., Jail Faulted For Not Preventing Inmate Suicides


Health providers and corrections officers at the D.C. jail are poorly trained to identify potentially suicidal inmates, take shortcuts in assessing and monitoring their mental conditions, and in some cases leave inmates naked and in isolation for days, says a critical report quoted by the Washington Post. The report comes after four suicides in less than 12 months at the Central Detention Facility, where the suicide rate jumped to three times the national average.

The assessment was conducted in August by Lindsay Hayes, a national expert, but the city's Department of Corrections did not release it until yesterday, when D.C. Council member Tommy Wells began a long-awaited hearing on the string of in-custody deaths. Wells blasted Corrections Director Thomas Faust for the delay. Faust said he did not want to release the report until he had a plan to combat the problem. He came to the hearing armed with a schedule to ramp up training next year and to spend $600,000 removing welded towel bars, clothing hooks and other items apparently used in suicide attempts at the nearly 40-year-old jail complex. In the report and in testimony, critics painted the jail as a place lucky to have not recorded additional suicides in the past year.

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