The 27-year-old Cuyahoga County jail inmate who attempted suicide on Saturday evening by jumping from a balcony to the floor below cited extended lockdowns — the practice known as redzoning where inmates are locked up in their cells for up to 23 hours a day because of short staffing at the facility — as a precipitating factor. Cleveland.com was the first to report the news based on jail records.
The man had also earlier that day told a supervisor he needed his anxiety medications and had told other inmates of his feelings. He was scheduled for a mental health screening but records don't show whether he received one prior to the incident.
Redzoning was detailed at length in the U.S. Marshal's report on the facility and has long been cited by corrections officers and their union as a key cause of unrest and danger in the jail over the years.
Suicide attempts have climbed by increasing and alarming rates in the previous three years, and four of the eight deaths at the jail last year were inmates who took their own lives.
There were 69 suicide attempts by inmates in the Cuyahoga County jail in 2018, according to numbers released by the county. That's a 64-percent increase from 2017, when there were 42 suicide attempts, which itself was a jump from 2016, when there were 23 attempts.
It's not hard to see a through-line between the practice of redzoning and mental health, and one inmate who wrote into Scene last month connected the two directly. The inmate's letter is below.
I should be in jail. I am guilty.
I deserve to be in jail but that doesn't mean I should be treated like an animal, but that's what it is like in county jail.
I am writing this and we are now in what's been called the "red zone." Basically means locked down solitary confinement to our cells because of short staff. The problem is they are short staff all the time. 23 out of the last 32 days, to be exact. I did some time a couple of years ago and redzone was happening then too. My bad for getting in trouble, but there are prisoner rights.
Some days it fees like you're going insane in your cell. You can only read and do pushups and write so much before there is nothing to do except stare and think and think and think about how terrible your life is at this moment.
There have been 4 suicides in the last year. Coincidence?