Pinal Jail Suicides Have Experts Concerned

Recent suicides at the Pinal County Jail are raising concerns about supervision, medical care and management of the facility.Two inmates killed themselves July 8 and 16.There have been two other suicides and five suicide-related injuries in the Pinal County jail since 2005.Experts said the number of jail deaths raises questions for a facility the size of the Pinal County jail.

Two deaths in a week for a jail that size certainly stands out,” said Lindsay Hayes, a consultant who works with the U.S. Justice Department to analyze jail suicides. “I can’t say anything for sure without studying them. But when you see a group of suicides like that, there are often factors that could have contributed.”Dan Pochoda, legal director for the Arizona American Civil Liberties Union, said his office has received several complaints about the Pinal County jail.”We’ve been hearing about everything from people not being given clean clothes, filthy conditions and abuse,” Pochoda said.Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Terry Altman runs the jail, which houses an average of 1,200 inmates daily.Altman was hired by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in April 2005 to run the county jails. He is one of the highest-paid people in the sheriff’s office, making more than $100,000 a year.In 2004, Altman was demoted from his position as top commander for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in Florida after five inmates committed suicide in three months.Altman declined interview requests, answering questions only through a sheriff’s office spokesman.In an e-mail, he issued a statement that said: “The risk of suicide within a detention facility is always present. Once Mental Health Staff determine the need for increased monitoring of the individual, the security staff assume this responsibility, and perform these duties flawlessly.”Brevard County sheriff’s officials declined to comment about Altman’s history or the suicides.News outlets throughout Florida reported that Altman’s staff committed numerous violations, were negligent and were accused of falsifying reports surrounding the deaths.Sheriff’s spokeswoman Vanessa White said a nationwide search was conducted, and Altman was selected despite his history in Florida.



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