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DOC responds to prison suicides

Contributed

As reported by a number of media outlets today, 13 inmates in the custody of the Alabama Department of Corrections have died by suicide in the past 14 months.  While the total number of recent suicides is significant, each suicide within an ADOC facility is a tragic and unfortunate event.  Each of these 13 suicides represents a different person who faced individual struggles and challenges that led to their death.  Nevertheless, the ADOC investigates every suicide and the circumstances surrounding each suicide to evaluate ways in which the Department can improve its existing suicide prevention program.

It is important to understand that ADOC’s current suicide prevention program resulted from a remedial plan proposed and promoted by SPLC.  In January of 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama ordered the ADOC to follow the interim suicide prevention measures as proposed by the SPLC.  To comply with this Order, the ADOC increased mental health staffing, reconfigured facilities to accommodate suicidal inmates and revised its policies and procedures – all with the approval of SPLC.  As a result of these efforts, the ADOC demonstrated great improvements in suicide prevention in 2017 with only inmate suicide.  However, the recent spike in suicides call into question the long-term effectiveness of the suicide prevention measures proposed by the SPLC.

The recent spike in suicides within ADOC is an on-going concern and will be addressed by the ADOC.  On March 8, 2019, an expert retained by the ADOC will issue a report (jointly authored with an SPLC expert) on recommendations on additional suicide prevention measures.  Once we receive this report, the ADOC intends to fully implement those measures that will ensure a long-term solution in the prevention of suicides. 

 “Our department is committed to providing appropriate care for those with mental illness and we have plan to address the conditions inside our prisons that hinder our ability to meet that commitment,” Commissioner Jeff Dunn said.  “In addition to increasing our mental health staff, we also are developing a prison revitalization plan that will consolidate the delivery of mental and medical health care in a new state-of-the-art health care facility.  More information about the plan will be made public in the coming days. I am focused on solving this problem.”

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