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Last weekend, August 1-4, 2019, coroner Graham Hetrick, the star and host of the TV series, THE CORONER: I SPEAK FOR THE DEAD, served as special guest speaker at MurderCon in Raleigh, N.C.

During his talks, Hetrick detailed low-hanging suicides committed by a victim who ties a rope, cloth, twisted garbage bag, shoestring, belt, or other material, to a doorknob, bed post, etc., and then places the other end—a loop—around the neck. The victim then, with practically unbelievable willpower, simply leans forward to tighten the “noose” around the neck thereby shutting off the oxygen supply to the brain. The end result is, of course, death. All without the body dropping from a platform, chair, ceiling beam, etc.

In this type of suicide by hanging, the person committing the act must overcome the body’s forceful urges to live. They must resist ripping the ligature from their body in order to take another breath—to ignore the begging and pleading of the lungs, demanding that the brain immediately intervene.

These people often have a very strong desire to die, and they do. Maybe not on the first attempt, but kill themselves they do, eventually. Somehow, someway. Others, however, use a suicide attempt to escape intense emotional pain, not necessarily to die.

Was it possible that Hetrick had some sort of premonition? After all, he’s quite the insightful man.

Whatever brought the coroner to discuss this sort of suicide tactic remains to be seen but, ironically, it was a mere few days later when 66-year-old Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide in the protective housing unit, 9 South, at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), a federal prison in Lower Manhattan, And he did so in the precise manner detailed by Hetrick.

Back in the day, during my time as a state corrections officer, when working in the segregation units we were required to make rounds every 30 minutes, 15 if the prisoner was on suicide watch. We took that a step further by stationing an officer outside the suicide watch cells.

During the course of those 30 minute rounds in segregation it was mandatory to sign and timestamp a logbook positioned at each block of cells. The log station was in a location where each cell was clearly visible to the officer. The logbook was attached to a podium and could only be removed by a watch commander.

We were required to make verbal contact with each inmate. In return, they were to respond to the officers questions. We were required to see and make note of signs of life, meaning the inmate must move, sit, stand (speak) or, if asleep, we were to observe the chest rise and fall normally. If not, we were to wake the inmate. They were not permitted to sleep with blankets covering their heads.

Things Could Go South in a Hurry!

One night, while making my rounds in the segregation unit, I found a young inmate hanging by the neck from a bedsheet attached to a steel bedrail that was no more than three or four feet from the concrete floor. He’d simply tied the sheet around the steel rail and leaned forward until his airway became constricted.

I saw him the moment I rounded the corner. His facial skin was beginning to turn a slight grayish hue. His eyes were open and and slightly bulging and his tongue protruded from between his lips just a bit, much like a thirsty dog’s tongue. It had only been 15 minutes or so when I last passed by his cell. We’d even exchanged a few words of small talk on my last round. He’d seemed fine.

I used my radio to call for help and for control to unlock the cell door. I managed to raise the man’s body to the bed and then released the sheet from his neck. Medical staff arrived and took control. The inmate survived the suicide attempt. All of this took place within minutes. Mere minutes.

Suicide attempts in jails and prisons across the U.S. are not uncommon and those who try often succeed.

In one U.S. jail alone, the county lockup in Traverse County, Mi., there were 51 attempted suicides and two suicides during the years between 2011 and 2018. Marilyn Lucille Palmer and Alan Bradley Halloway hanged themselves in the shower sections of their cells. They accomplished the task by attaching nooses to small openings in the steel walls. These two deaths occurred nearly ten years apart, to the day.

Bedsheets are a common instrument used in inmate hangings. So much so that jail officials in Cleveland, Ohio have eliminated bedsheets from all cells housing inmates at risk of suicide. In lieu of sheets they’re issued an extra blanket. The decision to replace sheets with the thicker and tougher-to-tear blankets came after five prisoners committed suicide, including Nicholas Colbert, who hanged himself in the military veteran’s pod section of the jail.

In North Carolina, a record 12 inmates died by suicide, in 2018, while in state custody. This is compared to six inmate suicides in 2017 and seven in 2016. To help tackle the problem of inmate suicides, the state is recruiting prisoners who will watch over other inmates who are considered suicide risks. Each the selected prisoners will receive specialized training and take notes every 15 minutes during their assigned shifts. If trouble should arise they’ll hen call for staff members. The same policy is already in place at the federal level (see below).

Epstein’s Death Was More Than Likely Just As It Seems, a Suicide

As much as folks from all spectrums of the conspiracy theory trail would like to believe, prison suicides occur far more often than the public generally hears about. They’re not reported by the media because they don’t involve high-profile prisoners, like Jeffrey Epstein. Nor do those suicide cases come at a time when the death conveniently saves the day for a lot of high-profile politicians, businesspeople, etc. (Please, I’m begging you to not turn this into a political discussion or debate. I’m merely reporting fact, not opinion).

Unfortunately for Epstein and his family, and for the victims who wanted to face him in a court of law and to see him rot in a prison cell for life, it seems that the corrections facility staff dropped the ball due to staffing shortages, rules that weren’t followed, unreliable and unprofessional officers, and a perfect storm of other issues that could’ve gone unnoticed during a typical day in prison, if the deceased had not been connected to high-profile folks.

The Metropolitan Correctional Center’s website issues an Admission and Orientation manual for pre-trial inmates. Jeffrey Epstein was one of those pre-trial prisoners. The first paragraph of page five of the manual is dedicated to inmate suicide prevention. It reads:

“It is not uncommon for people to experience depression and hopelessness while in jail or prison, particularly if they are newly incarcerated, are serving a long sentence, are experiencing family problems or problems getting along with other inmates, or receive bad news. Sometimes, inmates consider committing suicide due to all of the pressure they are under. Staff are trained to monitor inmates for signs of suicide, and are trained to refer all concerns to the Psychology Department. However, staff do not always see what inmates see. Ifyou are personally experiencing any ofthe problems noted above, or you or another inmate are showing signs of depression (sadness, tearfulness, lack ofenjoyment in usual activities), withdrawal (staying away from others, reducing phone calls and/or visits), or hopelessness (giving away possessions, stating that “there is nothing to live for”), PLEASE alert a staff member right away. Your input can save a life.”

Finally, in case you’d like to learn more about the BOP’s policies on suicide watches …

From the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP)

OPI: CPD/PSBNUMBER: P5324.08DATE: 4/5/2007

SUBJECT: Suicide Prevention Program

RULES EFFECTIVE: 3/15/2007

SUICIDE WATCH

  1. Housing. Each institution must have one or more rooms designated specifically for housing an inmate on suicide watch. The designated room must allow staff to maintain adequate control of the inmate without compromising the ability to observe and protect the inmate.
  • The primary concern in designating a room for suicide watch must be the ability to observe, protect, and maintain adequate control of the inmate.
  • The room must permit easy access, privacy, and unobstructed vision of the inmate at all times.
  • The suicide prevention room may not have fixtures or architectural features that would easily allow self-injury.
  • Inmates on watch will be placed in the institution’s designated
  • suicide prevention room, a non-administrative
  • detention/segregation cell ordinarily located in the health
  • services area.  Despite the cell’s location, the inmate will not
  • be admitted as an in-patient unless there are medical indications
  • that would necessitate immediate hospitalization.
  • Placement of a suicide watch room in a different area may be
  • warranted given the unique features of some institutions.

However, designating a room for suicide watch outside of the Health Services area requires written approval of the Regional Director.  Such rooms must meet all of the requirements identified above.

Administrative detention and disciplinary segregation cells will not be designated or approved as suicide watch cells. Under emergency conditions a suicidal inmate may be placed temporarily on suicide watch in a cell other than the institution’s designated watch room. The inmate must be moved to a designated suicide watch room as soon as one becomes available.

  1. Conditions of Confinement. While on suicide watch, the inmate’s conditions of confinement will be the least restrictive available to ensure control and safety. The inmate on watch will ordinarily be seen by the Program Coordinator on at least a daily basis. Unit staff will have frequent contact with the inmate while he/she is on watch. Ordinarily, the Program Coordinator or designee will interview or monitor each inmate on suicide watch at least daily and record clinical notes following each visit.

The Program Coordinator or designee will specify the type of personal property, bedding, clothing, magazines, that may be allowed.

  • If approved by the Warden, restraints may be applied if necessary to obtain greater control, but their use must be clearly documented and supported.
  • Any deviations from prescribed suicide watch conditions may be made only with the Program Coordinator’s concurrence.
  • The Program Coordinator will develop local procedures to ensure timely notification to the inmate’s Unit Manager when a suicide watch is initiated and terminated. Correctional Services staff, in consultation with the Program Coordinator or designee, will be responsible for the inmate’s daily custodial care, cell, and routine activities.
  • Unit Management staff in consultation with the Program Coordinator will continue to be responsive to routine needs while the inmate is on suicide watch.
  1. Observation. For all suicide watches:
    • Any visual observation techniques used to monitor the suicide companion program will focus on the inmate companion and/or the inmate on suicide watch only.
    • The observer and the suicidal inmate will not be in the same room/cell and will have a locked door between them.
    • The person performing the suicide watch must have a means to summon help immediately (e.g., phone, radio) if the inmate displays any suicidal or unusual behavior.
    • The Program Coordinator will establish procedures for documenting observations of the inmate’s behavior in a Suicide Watch log book, which will be maintained as a secure document. Staff and inmate observers will document in separate log books. Post Orders will provide direction to staff on requirements for documentation.
  • Staff Observers. The suicide watch may be conducted using staff observers. Staff assigned to a suicide watch must have received training (Introduction to Correctional Techniques or in AT) and must review and sign the Post Orders before starting the watch. The Program Coordinator will review the Post Orders annually to ensure their accuracy.
  • Inmate Observers. Only the Warden may authorize the use of inmate observers (inmate companion program). The authorization for the use of inmate companions is to be made by the Warden on a case-by-case basis. If the Warden authorizes a companion program, the Program Coordinator will be responsible for the selection, training, assignment, and removal of individual companions. Inmates selected as companions are considered to be on an institution work assignment when they are on their scheduled shift and shall receive performance pay for time spent monitoring a potentially suicidal inmate.
  1. Watch Termination and Post-Watch Report. Based upon clinical findings, the Program Coordinator or designee will:

1) Remove the inmate from suicide watch when the inmate is no longer at imminent risk for suicide, or

2) Arrange for the inmate’s transfer to a medical referral center or contract health care facility.

Once an inmate has been placed on watch, the watch may not be terminated, under any circumstance, without the Program Coordinator or designee performing a face-to-face evaluation. Only the Program Coordinator will have the authority to remove an inmate from suicide watch. Generally, the post-watch report should be completed in PDS prior to terminating the watch, or as soon as possible following watch termination, to ensure appropriate continuity of care. Copies of the report will be forwarded to the central file, medical record, psychology file, and the Warden. There should be a clear description of the resolution of the crisis and guidelines for follow-up care.

At a minimum, the post-watch report will include:

  • risk factors assessed,
  • changes in risk factors since the onset of watch,
  • reasons for removal from watch, and
  • follow-up recommendations.
  1. INMATE OBSERVERS – INMATE COMPANION PROGRAM.
  2. Selection of Inmate Observers. Because of the very sensitive nature of such assignments, the selection of inmate observers requires considerable care. To provide round-the-clock observation of potentially suicidal inmates, a sufficient number of observers should be trained, and alternate candidates should be available.

Observers will be selected based upon their ability to perform the specific task but also for their reputation within the institution. In the Program Coordinator’s judgement, they must be mature, reliable individuals who have credibility with both staff and inmates. They must be able, in the Program Coordinator’s judgement, to protect the suicidal inmate’s privacy from other inmates, while being accepted in the role by staff. Finally, in the Program Coordinator’s judgement, they must be able to perform their duties with minimal need for direct supervision.

In addition, any inmate who is selected as a companion must not:

  • Be in pre-trial status or a contractual boarder;
  • Have been found to have committed a 100-level prohibited act within the last three years; or
  • Be in FRP, GED, or Drug Ed Refuse status.
  1. Inmate Observer Shifts. Observers ordinarily will work a four-hour shift. Except under unusual circumstances, observers will not work longer than one five-hour shift in any 24-hour period. Inmate observers will receive performance pay for time on watch.
  2. Training Inmate Observers. Each observer will receive at least four hours of initial training before being assigned to a suicide watch observer shift. Each observer will also receive at least four hours of training semiannually. Each training session will review policy requirements and instruct the inmates on their duties and responsibilities during a suicide watch, including:
  • the location of suicide watch areas;
  • summoning staff during all shifts;
  • recognizing behavioral signs of stress or agitation; and
  • recording observations in the suicide watch log.
  1. Meetings with Program Coordinator. Observers will meet at least quarterly with the Program Coordinator or designee to review procedures, discuss issues, and supplement training. After inmates have served as observers, the Program Coordinator or designee will debrief them, individually or in groups, to discuss their experiences and make program changes, if necessary.
  2. Records. The Program Coordinator will maintain a file containing:
  • An agreement of understanding and expectations signed by each inmate observer;
  • Documentation of attendance and topics discussed at training meetings;
  • Lists of inmates available to serve as observers, which will be available to Correctional Services personnel during non-regular working hours; and
  • Verification of pay for those who have performed watches.
  1. Supervision of Inmate Observer During a Suicide Watch. Although observers will be selected on the basis of their emotional stability, maturity, and responsibility, they still require some level of staff supervision while performing a suicide watch.
  • This supervision will be provided by staff who are in the immediate area of the suicide watch room or who have continuous video observation of the inmate observer.
  • In all cases, when an inmate observer alerts staff to an emergency situation, staff must immediately respond to the suicide watch room and take necessary action to prevent the inmate on watch from incurring debilitating injury or death. In no case will an inmate observer be assigned to a watch without adequate provisions for staff supervision or without the ability to obtain immediate staff assistance.
  •           THE DECISION TO USE INMATE OBSERVERS MUST BE PREDICATED
  •           ON THE FACT THAT IT TAKES ONLY THREE TO FOUR MINUTES
  •           FOR MANY SUICIDE DEATHS TO OCCUR.

Supervision must consist of at least 60-minute checks conducted in-person. Staff will initial the chronological log upon conducting checks.


Again, please, I’m begging you to not turn this into a political discussion or debate. I’m merely reporting fact, not opinion. Thank you.

FMC DEVENS: An administrative security federal medical center with an adjacent minimum security satellite camp. In spite of being classified as a medical facility, FMC Devens is still a federal prison, nonetheless. However, unlike one of its predecessors—Alcatraz, pictured above—Devens is a bit more modern with a few more comforts than the bare bones conditions found at “The Rock.”

Anthony Weiner, the former politician turned convicted felon is now an inmate at the Federal Medical Center Devens in Ayer, Massachusetts. He was allowed to self-surrender, meaning family and/or friends drove him to the prison and then said their goodbyes before Weiner was likely led to an area to begin intake/processing.

Weiner’s proposed release date is May 15, 2019. With good behavior (no write-ups or other disciplinary troubles) he’ll serve only 85% of his sentence. That’s the rule in the fed system. Be a good boy and you’ll be out sooner than the sentence handed down by the court. Act out and you’ll serve every day of it.

FMC Devens

FMC Devens is situated adjacent to Mirror Lake, just a short drive down the road from Red Tail Golf Club. A hike through the woods to the rear of the place and you’ll cross Sheridan Road and then the George W. Stanton Highway. On the opposite side of the Stanton is the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge. A right on the Stanton takes you to a state prison, past the Great Wolf Lodge, and Stoneville and then Farley. A left and you’d soon be in Cambridge, near Harvard.

The total inmate population at FMC Devens is 1134. Of those prisoners, 129 are serving their time at the adjacent/satellite camp. Inmates at the camp are those with short sentences and have proven their trustworthiness (they’re not apt to cause trouble or to escape). “Campers” are responsible for a lot of the maintenance work around the prison(s). They mow lawns, repair plumbing, electrical, etc. Paint, repair vehicles, and more.

The main prison, the FMC is a medical center with professionals and equipment needed for the treatment of injury, disease, and illness (physical and mental). Upon arrival and settling in, each inmate must attend orientation to learn the rules and regulations. They undergo full physical exams and evaluations.

Inmates must be counted at various times throughout the day and night (Can’t have one go missing) – Official counts are conducted at 12:05 AM, 3:00 AM, 5:00 AM, 4:00 PM and 10:00 PM. (4:00 PM and 10:00 PM will be a standing count, meaning each prisoner must stand beside their bunks. Absolutely NO talking or movement.) On holidays and weekends,  an additional “stand up” count takes place at 10:00 AM. An emergency count (suspected escape, etc.) may take place at any time deemed necessary. All emergency counts are standing counts.

Other rules include (From the BOP—FMC Devens—website):

  • Official counts will be conducted at 12:05 AM, 3:00 AM, 5:00 AM, 4:00 PM and 10:00 PM. (4:00 PM and 10:00 PM will be a standing Count.) On holidays and weekends, there is an additional “stand up” count held at 10:00 AM.
  • Pass System: At this institution, a fifteen minute period has been determined to be an adequate amount of time to move to any area in this facility. Inmates traveling from one destination to another during any time other than open movement (work call, meals and recall) require a pass. There are four types of passes here:

1. Institution Pass – issued when an inmate goes from one point to another.
2. Recreation / Library Pass – issued when an inmate must go to the recreation yard, inmate activity center, legal and leisure libraries.
3. Facilities Pass – issued to inmates working in the Facilities Department who are on required job sites throughout the institution.
4. Medical Pass – issued to inmates during a sick-call appointment allowing the inmate to report back to Medical Staff at a designated time.

Passes will be issued by the sending staff member and will be retained by the inmate until the movement is completed. Inmates should have the pass visible when traveling from one area to another. All inmates are required to be in possession of a pass when not traveling during open movement and must present the pass to any staff member when instructed to do so. Once the inmate’s scheduled travel is completed, the pass must be returned to the issuing staff member.

  • Out-of-Boundary-Areas: Certain areas are “Out of Bounds” unless inmates are assigned to work there or have been called by staff. If an inmate is called to one of these areas, he is to report immediately to the staff on duty. Inmates should not linger following completion of their business. These areas include but are not limited to:

1. Administration Building (except to go to Correctional Systems and to R&D). 2. Any housing unit, other than the one in which the inmate is assigned.
3. Grass areas (except where authorized on the Recreation Yard).
4. Rear gate area.

  • Urine/Alcohol Surveillance: Inmates may be asked to give a urine or Breathalyzer sample at any time. When an inmate is called to give a urine sample, he has two (2) hours to provide the sample or an Incident Report will be written. Inmates must remain under direct staff observation during those two (2) hours. Failure to submit to a urine sample or Breathalyzer will be treated as a refusal and will result in disciplinary action. Water or other fluid may be taken only upon permission of the Operations Lieutenant or the Captain. A Breathalyzer test must be completed when called for testing. There is no allowed delay.
  • Barber Shop – Haircuts and hair care services are authorized in the barber shop only. Hours of operation will be posted in each of the housing units and the barber shop.

 

INMATE DRESS REGULATIONS

Authorized Uniform

A. The authorized uniform consists of khaki trousers and shirt at the FMC and green trousers and shirt at the FPC. The uniform will be worn on all work assignments, except Food Service workers who wear the white trousers and shirt.

B. The authorized uniform will be worn during all visits and during normal working hours defined as 6:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding Federal holidays. The shirt will be tucked neatly into the trousers and buttoned, except the top button may be unbuttoned. The sleeves may be rolled neatly to the elbow, or worn all the way down and buttoned. Trousers will not be rolled up, sagging, or bloused inside the inmate’s socks or shoes.

C. Shower shoes are not to be worn outside the housing units.

D. Sweatshirts may be worn, but will be worn under the authorized shirt.

E. Underwear, including thermal underwear, will not be worn as outer garments except in the individual’s room. Thermal underwear will not be worn with shorts, T-shirts, or tank tops.

F. All sleeves, trouser, and shorts will be hemmed; cutoffs and other altered clothing are not permitted.

G. The regular authorized dress uniform is required for educational classes and during normal working hours at religious services. Food Service workers are permitted to wear the white shirt and pants to Education classes. After hours and on weekends, leisure wear is permitted in religious services.

H. Inmates must wear clothing at all times, except when bathing, including leisure activities and in the living areas.

Work Details

A. Institution issued white T-shirts with the ID tag attached may be worn on outside details in lieu of the khaki or green shirt during the summer (e.g., June – August). The T-shirt must be clean, neatly tucked in, and in good condition.

B. Safety (steel-toed) shoes are to be worn on all work details. 3. After Hours:

A. For evenings, weekends, and holidays, inmates must be properly dressed to include shirt (with sleeves), pants or shorts, and socks. If wearing the khaki uniform, shirts must be tucked in.

Recreation

A. Approved athletic shorts, pants, and sweatshirts may be worn while participating in indoor and outdoor recreational activities. Shirts are to be worn at all times by inmates participating in recreational activities and must be tucked in while on the compound. Tank tops may be worn during recreational activities in the outdoor or inside recreation areas. Tank tops may not be worn on the compound or in the Food Service area. Sunglasses will not be worn inside buildings unless prescribed by medical staff.

B. When participating in inside athletics, all participants will be required to wear athletic shoes. On the track, any authorized shoe with the exception of shower shoes is permissible.

Food Service

A. Inmates are required to wear their authorized uniforms for the breakfast and lunch meals on weekdays.
B. Inmates may wear athletic wear as described above, after hours, during weekends, and on Federal holidays in Food Service. C. Inmates will not be allowed in the dining room with torn, soiled, odorous, or wet apparel.

Head Wear

A. No caps will be worn inside any building except for Food Service workers, who are working in Food Service.
B. Religious head wear is allowed in the dining room and must be approved by the Chaplain.
C. Doo rags will not be worn outside the living areas.

Visiting Room

A. Inmates are required to wear the authorized uniform in the visiting room.

B. Foot wear is limited to the black boot and boots purchased from Commissary unless the inmate has a medical slip indicating they are required to wear one of the medical shoes issued by the Medical Department.


Alcatraz Island – by boat, as seen by inmates upon arrival.