According to a recent report, it is almost impossible to tell how many people are dying from suicide while in custody at New Jersey correctional facilities.
New Jersey Prison Suicide Rates on the Rise
The New Jersey Department of Correction has been reported to have no consistent systems to investigate inmates deaths. For instance, since 2013, 17 prison deaths have been recorded. In all those deaths, the New Jersey Department of Correction has only been able to locate six death reports.
Suicide due to untreated drug addictions or mental illnesses form the majority of deaths in New Jersey. In fact, between 2012 and 2016, these cases have caused a 55% increase in prison suicide rates each year.
To reduce suicide rates, Hudson County jail’s officials decided to step up screenings to prisoners, as part of the intake process. They also increased spending on the mental health of the prisoners. All these changes happened after an inmate died at the Hudson County jail.
Prison Suicide: Jennifer Towle’s Death
In 2017, Jennifer Towle was found dead in Hudson County jail. A post-mortem report ruled her death as suicide. She was under suicide watch when she died. She was serving a 180-day sentence because of drunk driving.
Foreign items such as plastics, nail clippers and food wrappers were found in her stomach. As a result, she developed perforated gastric ulcers a condition that is caused by ingesting non-food items. Many, including her children, could not understand how someone could have such trash in her stomach while still under watch.
Measures Against New Jersey Suicide at Hudson County Jail
A one-year $7.68 million professional services agreement with Nashville’s Correct Care Solutions (CCS) was approved by the Hudson County freeholders. The agreement aims at providing medical and mental health care at the jail.
The main goal for the Correct Care Solutions is to replicate the mental program known as Community Oriented Re-Entry program in Hudson County. The CCS has also committed to add three mental counselors at the jail. Currently, the facility has a total of seven mental counselors.
Screening intakes are usually done to detect mental health issues. When the mental health of the prisoner turns out positive, they are referred to a health professional for further evaluation. The CCS follows fully documented screening tools that analyze people and determine what their mental illness levels might be. The screening tools used are recognized across the field of psychiatry.
The changes in Hudson County Jail have helped reduce the prison suicide rates especially to newly convicted people who have never been away from the society.