Jail officers thwart attempted suicide Prisoner who tried to hang himself reported in stable condition

April 02, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Howard County jail officers saved a 36-year-old suspected illegal immigrant from trying to hang himself with a bedsheet yesterday.

James N. "Buck" Rollins, director of the Howard County Detention Center, said the incident occurred after Antonio Portanova -- a native of Italy who was brought to the Jessup jail Monday -- was released from an observation unit where he had been held overnight after showing signs of drug withdrawal.

As three jail officers were doing their normal rounds about noon yesterday, they saw Portanova tie a bedsheet around the railing on the second level of a two-story, open-style jail unit. With the other end of the sheet tied around his neck, Portanova then jumped over the railing.

Hanging from the railing, Portanova briefly lost consciousness as officers rushed to haul him back up, Rollins said.

"The officers ran and got behind him and pulled him back," Rollins said. "They did a great job."

After Portanova was brought to the jail Monday afternoon -- along with 12 other federal immigration prisoners -- he told authorities he was a heroin user and began showing signs of withdrawal, Rollins said.

Portanova was placed in an observation cell during the night, but after an evaluation by the medical department, he was placed in a unit with other prisoners.

After the incident, Portanova was taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he was in stable condition late yesterday.

The county jail holds prisoners for the Immigration and Naturalization Service in a separate unit of the jail. Rollins said the jail receives $70 for every night an INS detainee stays in the jail.

Pub Date: 4/02/97

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