Regional Jails Working to Prevent Inmate Suicides

Lynchburg, VA - The Blue Ridge Jail Authority says despite an inmate's apparent suicide last week, you'd be surprised how many are actually prevented.

According to the department of justice, inmates are three times more likely than the general population to commit suicide.

National statistics show suicide is the single leading cause of unnatural deaths in jails run by localities.

The supervisor of the Blue Ridge Regional Jail estimates they've prevented at least 150 suicides in the last 13 years. He says it all boils down to training and treatment.

Clyde Gibson was waiting to go on trial at the Amherst Blue Ridge Regional Jail when jail authorities say he killed himself early Friday morning.

"He was in segregation. He had apparent ligature marks around his neck and his body was sent to the medical examiner's office," Supervisor Tim Trent said.

Trent is supervisor of the jail authority, responsible for roughly 1200 inmates, housed in five Central Virginia jails. He says despite this recent death, their suicide rate is below the state average.

"It's unfortunate that we have lost four people in the last 13 years. But, I would like the public to know that in those 13 years, we've saved 150 people," Trent said.

Trent says the staff is trained to look for signs of suicide, each inmate is screened within 72 hours of being incarcerated, and there are some inmates automatically put on suicide watch based on the nature of the crime.

Offenders serving time for homicide, kidnapping, and rape have the highest suicide rates.

"It is a different world once you come in here," Trent said.

Clyde Gibson fit the profile. He was a white male, waiting to go on trial in Appomattox for sex crimes against children.

According to online records, Gibson killed himself just three days after a grand jury in Amherst indicted him on five more rape charges.

Providing mental health treatment for inmates is extremely expensive. Trent says psychotropic medication can cost $3,000 per inmate per month.

The treatment is required by law.