All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

On suicide, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts behind bars

The suicide rate among prisoners is four times as high as among the general population: Wikipedia. 

With a hundred calls coming in per day at the HFP office, you can well imagine that some of these prisoners are discussing suicide. I’m going to let them do the writing. 

Inmate #1, a resident at Women’s Huron Valley who struggles with suicidal thoughts, suffered a panic attack after being told she had to move one more time. 

When I was cuffed and taken to the unit for suicidal thoughts or actions the officer there was in rare form. "So you want to hang from the rafters so you don't have to move? Well, I got news for your ass! You’re still moving when you leave here, ain't nothing wrong with you. You kill me playing games cuz you don't want to move." She was screaming this and many more of her own diagnoses of my mental health. So I sat in a room, locked in with nothing and no way to get my medication for my mental health. 

Inmate #2 writes from Carson City CF: 

Last night, at about 230 AM, I was having thoughts of suicide. I went to the officers’ desk and told 3 male officers my situation. I was told to go back to my room. I then told them that I have made serious suicide attempts. I showed them I had been cutting on my wrist, and one of the officers said, “We don’t care. You have a direct order to go back to your room.” I did so. They never came to check on me or follow the rules covering how to handle or deal with such a matter. I could have died in that cell had I cut deeper. 

Inmate #3 just wrote from Macomb CF: 

Let's talk about a helluva morning. I came into work (as a Prisoner Observation Aide (POA)) only to find a body laying in the hallway. Apparently the individual advised staff multiple times throughout the night that he was suicidal but his complaints went ignored. Based on the statements of the surrounding prisoners, Nurses refused to respond when called. I've seen more deaths at this facility since returning in 2018 than I've seen during my entire 22-years of incarceration. 

Many experts on the topic believe this situation worsened due to the pandemic. Keri Blakinger, writer for the Marshall Project, explains:

Prisons across the country cut off classes and visits for several months during the pandemic, instead locking prisoners into dorms and cells to prevent the spread of disease. The use of solitary confinement increased by 500 percent while the virus ran rampant behind bars, killing nearly 3,000 staff members and prisoners nationwide. As their friends died and fell sick, prisoners contended with sewage leaks, riots and unidentifiable food served in meager rations. 

I conclude with these words from World Vision founder Bob Pierce: 

“Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” 

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