Mar 31, 2010

Small Jails With Large Problems

An article publshed in this week's addition of Mother Jones, exposes what may be considered a counter-intuitive phenomena. In "Small Jails Have Big Suicide Problem", author Mosi Secret writes, "Suicides account for more than two of five deaths at smaller jails, versus fewer than one of five in the country's 50 largest jails, Bureau of Justice Statistics show. Despite improvements in prevention techniques, inmates at smaller jails remain twice as likely as those at larger jails to die by their own hand." Christine Tartaro, an associate professor of criminal justice at Richard Stockton College in New Jersey, attributes the trend to smaller jails' lack of resources and attention.

The 680-bed Erie County Holding Facility, a small jail on the shores of Lake Erie in Buffalo, NY, was featured in the article. In that county jail, Mother Jones reports that "six inmates have committed suicide in the past five years, as many as at Rikers Island, the sprawling New York City jail that typically houses about 14,000 inmates." Erie County's Holding Facility's suicide prevention policy is currently being reviewed by chairman of the New York State Commission of Correction, Thomas Beilein.