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Mental Illness, Suicide, And The Criminal Justice System

We examine efforts seeking to reduce incidents resulting in suicides in Harris County jails.

Rob Crow


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A joint investigation by The AP and the University of Maryland's Capital News Service unearthed some alarming statistics regarding suicide rates in U.S. prisons and jails.

Reporters compiled some 400 lawsuits in the last five years alleging mistreatment, most of which were of someone displaying a mental illness. Of those alleged incidents 135 resulted in suicide.

Efforts seeking to reduce local incidents include a Harris County suicide hotline pilot program and the Sandra Bland Act, which mandates mental health training for law enforcement, an easier path to bond for those arrested with a mental illness or substance abuse problem, and mandatory investigation of any deaths in jails. But what more could be done?

In the audio above we ask Jay Jenkins, project attorney with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, which advocates for reforms in the criminal and juvenile justice systems about programs implemented to reduce suicide deaths in Harris County jails.

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