News4's I-Team looks into a national trend of prison suicides and what local officials are doing to prevent them. (Published Monday, Sep 9, 2013)
D.C. prison officials tell News4's I-Team they are taking extra precautions to make sure prisoners do not commit suicide while behind bars.
According to records obtained by News4's I-Team, 52 inmates in Maryland prisons committed suicide in the past 10 years, while 32 took their own lives in Virginia during the same time period. In D.C. prisons, four inmates have taken their lives in 2013 -- including a high-profile inmate and former Labor Department employee accused of assaulting a female co-worker.
Earlier this week, convicted kidnapper Ariel Castro took his own life inside his prison cell in Ohio. A note found inside his home dated nine years ago stated he wanted to take his own life -- prompting local prison officials to take precautions with prisoners exhibiting suicidal tendencies.
D.C. officials told News4's I-Team they are removing towel racks, taking away shaving razors and placing prisoners with suicidal tendencies inside two-person cells. A task force was created in July 2013 to review mental health assessments and screenings.
"Can I guarantee there won't be a suicide in a correction facility? Of course not. Can I guarantee all resources and make it less likely? Absolutely," said Tom Faust, director of the D.C. Department of Corrections.
Inside federal prisons, inmates are only allowed to wear clothing and use hygiene item issued by jail officials. Those with suicidal tendencies are kept in areas without fixtures that easily allow "self injury," officials said.
Maryland and D.C. prison officials say they are now watching suicidal inmates more closely and not letting them be alone for more than 15 minutes. D.C. says it will soon beef up its mental health screenings upon inmate arrival at the prisons.
MORE ON NBCWASHINGTON.COM