Prisons and Suicide At the Forefront


The state of Delaware between 2000 and present day, the Department of Corrections has reported that 32 inmates have died due to suicide leaving families to question why the inmates were not monitored.  Ian Arias family is one of the families questioning why these inmates are not better protected.

Arias had a history of suicide attempts, since his teen years and after being arrested as an adult he was taken to the Delaware Psychiatric Center. Arias then faced a series of events while awaiting trial in his prison cell at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.  March 5, 2013 Ian Arias hung himself with a bed sheet in his prison cell.

Maria Cristina Kurcan filed a lawsuit hoping to get answers about her 36 year old son, Ian from Wyoming. His mother says she just wants the truth and to know it will not happen again in the prison.
The lawsuit was brought by Ian’s mother and his brother prior to the second anniversary of his death. The lawsuit claims that doctors at several state agencies and top officials failed to keep Arias safe, these include the Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Corrections Care Solutions that is a company providing health care services to the state and the Delaware Psychiatric Center.

Dover Attorney Andre Beauregard, who is representing Arias family, stated that Ian was someone who made his suicidal attentions clear. The lawyer said Arias attempted to commit suicide twice while in the Department of Corrections. He was then sent to the psychiatric center and was still expressing suicidal tendencies was released back to the prison where within twenty days he was successful in committing suicide.

The lawsuit also alleges the day Arias committed suicide, March 5, 2013 at approximately 10:10 a.m. after being released from the infirmary prison officials found him unconscious. The cause of death was ruled suicide and the suit claims Arias was not regularly monitored and the prison staff was not properly trained.  Maria Cristina A. Kurcan stated about her son Ian Arias that state officials failed to keep him safe while in custody at the James T. Vaughn Corrections Center in 2013.

In the lawsuit it claims Arias told staff members he would attempt suicide when given the opportunity. It alleges that a social worker’s protests that Arias was still suicidal and exhibiting psychomotor retardation he was still discharged from the psychiatric center by a physician.  Arias mother claims once he returned to prison he was kept in the infirmary where she believes he felt isolated, since family was not permitted to visit him there.

Arias was born and raised in the Philippines, moving to the United States with his family in 1990. He was the second oldest out of eight children, with Arias mother claiming she brought them to the United States to have a good life.  The Department of Corrections in a released statement said they are dedicated to the behavioral and physical needs of inmates.

A statement released by the state agencies saying they will not comment on pending litigation.  The Department of Corrections has claimed it adheres to the 26-page policy to prevent suicides in response to Arias’ family lawsuit. Within the pages of the policy inmates are screened upon arrival at the prison to determine if they are a suicidal or self injury risk.

Inmates at risk are identified and either treated at the state’s prison facility, where they are closely monitored, inmates may also be placed in a specialized treatment setting in the prison facility, said DOC spokesman Jason Miller. At risk inmates may have one-on-one observation or checks at least every 15 minutes. At risk inmates may have one-on-one observation or checks at least every 15 minutes.
The policy addresses the items at risk inmates are permitted to have, such as bed linens, pens, pencils and plastic bags.

The legal action claims that Arias had a history of major depressive disorder, being diagnosed after he attempted suicide at age 15 while he was in foster care. During the time Arias was awaiting trial he attempted to commit suicide at least two times and told the prison staff of his intent to kill himself.

The lawsuit claims a court order sent Araias in November to be transferred to the Delaware Psychiatric Center where he would receive one-on-one monitoring. Arias was medicated over the next few months and sometimes receiving one-on-one monitoring and other times having 15 minute monitoring depending on his suicidal thoughts at the time.

Arias worked as a landscaper and after being arrested on June 28, 2012 on charges of sexual abuse and rape of a child with police maintaining the rape occurred since 2011 multiple times in Arias’ home. His family was unable to post bail.

Suicide within Prison

The U.S. Department of Justice 2010 study data of deaths in jails and prison nationwide, suicide is the leading cause of death.
This was the National Study of Jail Suicide, which shows the rate of suicides in prisons over the general population is several times higher.

There has been some action taken to reduce the numbers of suicide in recent years since 2007, which has effectively resulted in few deaths. According to the study the number of suicides as dropped from the 1986 number of 107 suicides per 100,000 inmates nationwide to the 2006 number of 36 suicides per 100,000.

Inmate Suicide Prevention

The state of Delaware has focused on prevention of suicides of mentally ill inmates and patients by providing better conditions.
There have been investigations with one in 2005 of the prison medical care and a federal civil rights investigation, which resulted in a settlement. The state and federal monitoring that ended in 22013 required significant reforms (Source.)

In 2011 a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice after an investigation of the Delaware Psychiatric Center resulted in calling for improved conditions with monitoring by a court appointed monitor to meet the obligations of the settlement. According to Delaware Department of Corrections between the years of 2007 and 2015 there has been 20 inmate suicides, with one occurring in 2015 at Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution. Since 2007 there have been 10 inmates at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center that have committed suicide.

The Department of Corrections policy states that all staff shall undergo eight hours of suicide prevention training upon starting at the prison and shall be required to take a two hour refresher course annually. This is clarified also in the 2010 national study as a recommendation.

The Department of Corrections according to mental health advocates is proceeding in the right direction and executive director of the Mental Health Association in Delaware, Jim Lafferty said that over 30 officers of a crisis center intervention team trained in May and this training could be used for correctional officers.  NAMI Delaware Executive Director Joshua Thomas stated that the Department of Corrections while handling a large number of inmates should be encouraged to focus on solutions to prevent suicides.

Guide To Preventing Prison Suicides Here.