Jail screening procedure due review after suicide

AROUND THE REGION

October 10, 2008|By Julie Scharper | Julie Scharper,julie.scharper@baltsun.com

A national agency will review screening procedures at Anne Arundel County jails after an inmate attempted suicide last week, jail officials said yesterday.

Four inmates have died at the Jennifer Road Detention Center this year, including two who took their own lives.

A consultant with the National Institute of Corrections will visit the jail this month to see if mental health screening tests can be improved to prevent future suicides, said jail administrator Terry Kokolis.

"It's tragic," Kokolis said. "We don't expect to discharge people in worse shape than they come in. Quite the opposite - we like to discharge people in better condition than when they come in."

Jail officials have begun more rigorous screenings to determine whether inmates are suicidal, he said.

About 2:30 a.m. Oct. 3, a correctional officer found Andrew J. Ballou, 30, unconscious in his cell after he had tried to hang himself with his pants, Kokolis said.

Ballou, who had been alone in his cell for about 90 minutes, was not breathing and did not have a pulse. Guards resuscitated him and took him to Anne Arundel Medical Center, Kokolis said. He did not know Ballou's current condition.

Ballou, of Severna Park, had been arrested two days before on an outstanding warrant from Baltimore for a drug possession charge. It was a minor offense, and he could have been freed on a $500 bond, Kokolis said.

A guard had checked on Ballou just 15 minutes before he was found, Kokolis said.

In July, Tyrell Dominique Taylor, 31, who had been arrested on robbery charges, hanged himself with bedsheets in his cell. Monteray A. Hastey, 37, committed suicide in his cell in the same manner in January.

Before this year, there had not been a suicide at the jail since 2003, Kokolis said.

In January, Michael B. McCormick, 49, was found dead of alcohol ketosis and blunt-force trauma after he apparently fell out of his bunk onto the concrete floor. The following month James L. Downs, 45, died of heart disease while awaiting trial for marijuana possession.

Stephen Meehan, a lawyer with the Prisoner Rights Information System of Maryland, said that the county's jail practices appeared to be in line with those across the state.

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