Medical Abuse/Neglect and Suicide




Inmate hangs himself in county jail
Sheriff repeats plea to ease crowding

Friday, September 23, 2005

WEST BOYLSTON— A 35-year-old inmate committed suicide early yesterday at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction, jail officials said.

Jason Smith, of Australia, hanged himself in his maximum security cell just after 6 a.m., according to Jeffrey Turco, deputy superintendent of the jail.

He left a suicide note tucked in a Bible, Mr. Turco said.

Correction officers used an electronic defibrillator to try to resuscitate him, but he was pronounced dead at 7:08 a.m., Mr. Turco said.

Mr. Smith was arrested in Holden earlier this month on misdemeanor larceny and check-forging charges. He was being held on $2,500 bail pending a scheduled appearance in Leominster District Court Monday.

When he arrived at the jail Sept. 2, Mr. Smith was placed on a 24-hour suicide watch after he refused to agree not to harm himself, Mr. Turco said. Mr. Smith, whom Mr. Turco said had an extensive criminal history, had no previous suicide attempts on record.

The next day, a mental health worker at the jail took him off the suicide watch after it was determined he was unlikely to try to kill himself, Mr. Turco said.

“He had the standard anxiety of anyone coming to jail,” he said. “He made no threats to hurt himself. There were no concerns. He didn’t complain about anything until, ultimately, this happened.”

Mr. Turco said jail records indicate that correction officers had patrolled Mr. Smith’s tier three times an hour before the suicide and had noticed nothing amiss.

Mr. Smith had originally been placed on a medium-security tier. He was moved to a single-inmate maximum security cell in the main older section of the jail complex after officials learned Mr. Smith had told Holden police that he had tried to escape from jail twice in his native Australia, Mr. Turco said.

Mr. Smith’s death was the third inmate suicide this year, and Sheriff Guy W. Glodis — who took office in January — said the death underscored the need for more space to reduce overcrowding at the jail complex by expanding it and hiring more correction officers.

The sheriff is seeking up to $100 million from the state Legislature for buildings to house 600 to 1,000 inmates. The jail now has more than 1,400 prisoners and pretrial detainees.

Sheriff Glodis said his most immediate need is for a high-security disciplinary unit to handle problem prisoners.

One way the sheriff has tried to deal with the overcrowding is by sending detainees who have previously served state prison time back to state prisons.

He said earlier this week that the jail is too crowded and is not equipped to accommodate female prisoners, as some prisoners rights advocates have suggested it do in light of the apparent fast-tracking at the Statehouse of at least part of the sheriff’s funding request .

In the wake of the latest suicide, the sheriff yesterday repeated his call for more space at the jail.

“This unfortunate incident confirms what this administration and the Central Massachusetts legislative delegation has been saying since January, that there has been a desperate need for additional resources and increased staff,” he said. “It is much needed to ease jail overcrowding, and dumping an additional 100 female inmates into a facility that is already bursting at the seams is only going to make matters worse.”

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     Last Updated on Wednesday August 29, 2007.