January 3rd, 2011 5:33 pm | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Multnomah County, Cops and Courts

Corrections Grand Jury: Suicide is Main Concern for Jails

A yearly report on jails and prisons in Multnomah County says suicide prevention is the main concern of the grand jurors tasked with studying the local corrections system.

The corrections grand jury report (PDF) released today by the District Attorney's Office says the downtown Multnomah County Detention Center has had two suicides since July 2009. There was one suicide in the four years prior to July 2009, the report says.

The timing is significant because prior to July 2009 the jail bunked prisoners two to a cell. The jail moved to single-bunking in July 2009 to prevent assaults and rapes. But jail managers also acknowledge that leaving prisoners alone increases the risk of suicide.

"A little over one year after the single-bunking of the facility, two suicides have occurred, both in single cells," the report says. "Although this might simply be a statistical aberration, mental health staff are concerned that it is not and that it represents a potential flaw in the system."

The grand jury report recommends robust suicide screening to protect against this risk. "The sheriff is aware of this issue and indicates that his office, in conjunction with Corrections Health, is seriously studying the matter," the report says.

Past corrections reports have blasted the jail system as monstrously inefficient and even singled out particular sheriffs for lambasting—especailly in the days of former Sheriff Bernie Giusto.

But this year's report heaps praise on Sheriff Dan Staton for further streamlining the jail system, gauging the true costs of running the facilities and for increasing morale among staff.

"Virtually all witnesses interviewed were optimistic about the leadership of the current sheriff, and this seems to constitute a dramatic and positive change," the report says.
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