Bland Death Shows Challenges Jailers Face In Stopping Suicides


Texas has counted 140 people who have killed themselves in the state’s 240 county jails since September 2009, says the Houston Chronicle. Inmates used a variety of methods and tools to end their lives: linens, clothes, blades, guns and even plastic bags, as in the reported suicide of Sandra Bland this month. The international outrage that erupted after her death has prompted state legislators and law enforcement to re-examine jail standards and procedures in a Texas House meeting today. Experts say the numbers show the challenges jailers face when inmates decide to try to kill themselves and can fashion a noose out of any piece of cloth lying nearby. “If an inmate wants to take their life, they’re going to find something in that cell, a towel, clothing, even a trash bag,” said Adan Muñoz, former head of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. In general population cells, there are multiple points to which inmates can tie homemade nooses, said Brandon Wood, the commission’s director.

Inmates at most jails have items that could easily be used as nooses: jail uniforms and undergarments, towels and bedsheets, and in the winter, blankets, he said. Most county jails have “rubber rooms,” or small cells specifically designed to hold inmates who could be a danger to themselves or others. The rooms are padded and empty, and inmates are often placed in them naked or wearing “suicide-resistant” smocks or gowns. The “rubber room” option should be left for inmates in crisis, said Michele Deitch of the University of Texas. “It’s not like anyone who presents any risk should be put in the highest risk category … that can exacerbate a lot of the trauma,” said Deitch, explaining that other measures, like frequent checks of suicidal inmates or putting inmates in general population cells with other inmates could reduce the chance they might attempt to kill themselves.

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