Ohio Investigates Inmate Suicides

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) have hired independent corrections experts to conduct a study on Ohio prison suicides after two inmates committed suicide within one month of each other.

Following the high profile suicides of Ariel Castro, who was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years after pleading guilty to 937 counts including kidnapping and rape, and Billy Slagle, sentenced to death for murdering a woman in 1988, the department has hired two independent consultants to review Ohio’s prison suicides.

Slagle was an inmate at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution and hung himself in his cell days before his scheduled execution on Aug. 4. Castro also hung himself in his cell on Sept. 3 at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, Ohio.

Fred Cohen, a law and criminal justice professor at the School of Criminal Justice at State University of New York at Albany, and Lindsay Hayes, project director of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, will lead the review.

“In addition to reviewing the circumstances surrounding the most recent suicides, these experts will expand their review to suicides that have occurred during the past two years,” the department said in a statement. “The examination will include an in-depth analysis of all DRC policies and procedures relevant to suicide prevention to determine if any improvements are warranted. DRC is committed to providing total access to staff, inmates and the necessary resources for the completion of this review.“

In 2013 alone, the department has witnessed eight suicides, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.

The review is to begin in early October and the report will be made publically available on or before Nov. 15.

Castro’s suicide is also the singular subject of another review, headed by Managing Director of Organizational Development Ed Banks, to determine if any of the policies and procedures of the ODCR were directly involved with the suicide. The Ohio State Patrol is also doing an independent review of Castro’s suicide to “thoroughly review all pertinent medical and mental health care records concerning inmate Castro and information surrounding the incident.”

A review of the suicide of Slagle indicated that corrections officers skipped security rounds and tampered with security logs at the time of Slagle’s suicide. The two officers responsible were placed on paid, administrative leave.