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Washington Prisons Aim To Learn From Inmate Suicides

Ian Maddox
An aerial view of Washington Corrections Center in Shelton.

Two Washington prison inmates have committed suicide in recent weeks at the state’s main intake facility in Shelton.

The first was in October. The most recent was just before Thanksgiving.

The state Department of Corrections hopes to learn from these deaths. The agency said whenever an inmate commits suicide that triggers what’s called a Critical Incident Review. In the past those reviews have led to suicide-prevention measures like changing out the hardware in prison cells.

The Department of Corrections said it also recently formed a work group that is focused on suicide prevention.

In July, the Washington Department of Corrections announced it would no longer discipline inmates for acts of self-harm, including suicide attempts. Instead the Department says it will focus on treatment and behavior-management plans for inmates who harm themselves.

So far this year there have been six suicides in Washington prisons.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."