Two suicides prompt changes at Lancaster County jail

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Jun 16, 2014 4:30 AM

(Lancaster) -- Inmates can expect policy changes after two suicides in two months at the Lancaster County Prison.

An investigation has revealed prison policies were followed, but some gaps in policies were also exposed.

Lancaster County Commissioner Scott Martin led the review, which found 30 year old Nathan Nixdorf strategically plotted his suicide attempt, by waiting in between guard checks and while his bunkmate was getting medical care.

After it's investigation, the county is now planning to work with Mental Health America of Lancaster County to have counselors available Monday through Friday at the jail.

All new inmates will also get evaluated by counselors, particularly between the initial booking and any court dates.

Martin says the plan is to mix up the schedule of guard checks too.

"It's not always on the same 30 minute interval. It's not always on the same 15 minute interval. It might be that you check, and then 5 minutes later, you're starting a new cycle again."

A guard may also rove in between the checks as well.

"The more you can probably keep people on your toes there, in terms of they never know when staff are going to be making their checks, or the more people we can have out there listening to the inmates and their concerns, or people for them to go to, I think will be better," says Martin.

The investigation included video review, plus testimony from staff and inmates.

Beyond the investigation, Martin says the staff at the jail also needs attention.

"You do have those that take it very hard, and can be very upset and they witnessed something they never thought they'd ever have to see, someone's life ending right before them. And we do provide counselors for those individuals whenever something like this occurs."

An investigation into an earlier suicide at the jail ended with two guards getting fired.

The union is contesting the decision.

Published in Lancaster, News

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