The full story behind jail suicides

Dave Culbreth

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The full story behind jail suicides

CREATED Sep. 4, 2013

Punta Gorda, Fla. -

After Ariel Castro, the man who admitted to holding three women inside his Cleveland home for years and torturing them committed suicide in an Ohio prison, we wondered how common it is and how detention facilities prevent it.

According to a 2006 Bureau of Justice study, 36 out of 100,000 inmates commit suicide. That's actually three times more than that of the normal population. "You don't always see it, it doesn't always manifest itself," said Capt. Earl Goodwyn III, the Assistant Jail Commander with the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office.

Wednesday, FOX4 got a rare look inside the Charlotte County jail. What we saw was that the cells have metal beds, metal sinks, and metal toilets. Nothing is made of any material someone can use to injure themselves or someone else.

If they're not on a suicide watch, they will have other items they can use. "Bed linens or uniforms or shirts, pants, whatever they can get to try to hang themselves," added Goodwyne.

In the last BOJ study, 93 percent of the suicides are from inmates hanging themselves. But, it's not common, Only 36 of 100,000 commit suicide. But that's still three times that of the normal population.

When an inmate first enters the facility they're asked numerous questions and watched closely. "We're constantly screening people, we're constantly observing behavior trying to determine whether somebody is prone to that," explained Goodwyne.

In jails, suicide is the leading cause of death because people aren't in there very long. But in prisons or penitentaries, like where Castro was serving numerous life sentences, more people die of natural causes or even aids.

However, if they determine someone's suicidal they're put in a cell by themselves. "They're given suicidal clothing or paper gowns, suicidal blankets, things that they can have to make them more comfortable but, in turn, they can't use those things to hurt themselves," said Goodwyne. He says they are under 24 hour personal or video surveillance and their status can only change after a doctor approves it. "They're going to  have to see the psychiatrist, they're going to have to see the medical doctor, and it'll be the doctors that actually remove them from that status."