Five inmates hung themselves in Broward County, Fl., jails in the past year, an unusually high number that troubles activists and comes as the sheriff plans to lay off jail employees and cut drug treatment programs, reports the Miami Herald. ”Five deaths in even a year’s time for this size system is a very large number,” said the nation’s leading jail suicide expert, Lindsay Hayes, who just updated a 20-year-old nationwide study of inmate suicides for the U.S. Department of Justice. “Just on the face of it, it certainly is an alarming number.”
In Miami-Dade, the number of jail suicides was among the reasons the Justice Department launched an ongoing investigation into that system in 2008. According to the Miami-Dade Police Department, in 2007 there were seven suicides in Miami-Dade jails — a larger jail system than Broward’s. Nationwide, the proportion of inmate suicides has plummeted dramatically in the past 20 years due to improved training, jail design, and the practice of asking incoming inmates key questions, Hayes said.