Jail sees first suicide in 15 years, describes protocol to keep inmates safe from self harm

Published: Apr. 23, 2021 at 3:54 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Announced on Monday, Pennington County Jail saw a suicide.

Although jails have far higher rates of self harm, it’s the first to be carried out at the jail in over fifteen years.

Brian Muller, the Chief Deputy at the Pennington County Sherriff’s Office, notes the rarity of the occasion.

“We have a fair number of suicide attempts in our facilities each year, and a majority of them we’re able to catch through early detection. Just through the mechanisms that we utilize,” says Muller.

Pennington County Jail is systematically designed to ensure inmate safety.

“We utilize direct supervision in our facilities. So, our staff is right in with the inmates constantly assessing what’s going on in their lives and how they’re interacting with other people. So, we can use early detection if they’re having issues to make sure that they have services. We have a full time mental health practitioner. We have 3 full time mental health case workers,” explains Muller. “We do everything from early detection, to treatment, to diagnosing people with severe mental illness, all the way down to providing people with coping skills for being in custody. Which can be a very stressful time in their lives.”

The jail is looking into the incident thoroughly and investigating actions that could prevent future tragedies.

“There’s a lot of different resources out there, and we’re tapping into all of them. We’d just like the public to know how seriously we take mental health. We spent a lot of extra time reviewing the incident, reviewing our protocols, and just making sure that’s there’s not something that we could be doing to prevent something like this in the future,” Muller says. “One is too many, but with how infrequent people are actually able to carry that out and accomplish it, I think that goes a long ways towards showing that what we’re doing is pretty successful here in Pennington County.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline takes all calls, including those from inmates. If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call (800) 273-8255.

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