Suicides at Clark County Jail prompt changes

VANCOUVER, Wash. — A spate of suicides at the Clark County jail is prompting officials to make changes.

The Columbian newspaper reported that four prisoners have hanged themselves while in custody this year, and there have been 19 attempts. By contrast, there were nine suicides at the jail from 2007 to 2011.

In response to increasing pressure from mental health advocates, families of inmates, custody officers and county commissioners, Sheriff Garry Lucas has directed that changes be made.

County commissioners are expected to approve a supplemental budget next month that includes $545,000 for modifications to the jail. That work includes replacing all 42 shower heads with shorter-nozzled models, and replacing at least 356 protruding fire sprinklers.

Mental health services in the jail will be increased by 40 hours, to 120 hours a week, and services will be available during the night. A psychiatrist will be at the jail three hours a week to see the most troubled inmates.

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