According to a recent report released by Disability Rights NC, suicide and drug overdose deaths are on the rise in North Carolina jails. According to the report, as of November 2019, there had been 17 suicides compared to 12 in 2018. In addition, the report notes that the rate of drug overdose doubled from 2017 to 2018. About 80% of suicides occur during an inmate's first 12 days in jail. All of these individuals were people who had been arrested but not convicted of a crime.
Disability Rights Report
The report notes that “being arrested and jailed in North Carolina carries with it an unacceptably high risk of death or serious injury.” It also states that “the continuing rash of deaths and related lawsuits demonstrate the urgent need for changes to protect our jailed NC residents.” Disability Rights NC recommends sweeping changes to help stem the tide of needless deaths. The jails should have an active suicide prevention program. In addition, there should be improved screening for mental illness and substance abuse.
Lawyers for Disability Rights say that North Carolina needs to make changes to its 25-year old rules. There should be a focus on making the facilities safer for inmates. Rule updates have been proposed but were criticized by the NC Sheriff’s Association. This stalled them from being put into effect.
Among these rule changes were alterations to the way officers observe inmates during their rounds to ensure they are safe. Several investigations into deaths at the jails noted that officers failed to properly check on inmates prior to their deaths. Rule changes also included enhanced screening of inmates for mental illness when they first arrive at the jail. Another rule change would have required the implementation of a suicide prevention program. Unless they are further delayed, these rule changes are set to go into effect in the spring of 2020 when the legislature reconvenes.
If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.