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County prison suicides and Human Service’s top budget issues

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What to look for on Smart Talk, Monday, March 4, 2019: 

The number of suicides reported in Pennsylvania county jails is troubling.  

In the last four years, there were 81 reported suicides in the county jail system. That number accounts for individuals who died by suicide, however, the number attempted is much higher, but may not be accurate. 

Inmate advocates are concerned the total number of suicides may be higher, because some deaths are attributed to natural causes and not reported. 

To put the numbers in perspective, a criminal justice report recently compared the 2013 suicide rate for local jails, which was 46 per 100,000 inmates, to the age-adjusted suicide rate among the general population. That general population rate was 12.6 suicides per 100,000 people in 2013. 

County officials say the problem has a lot to do with the changing role of county jails. Local jails are not just a way-point to the prison system, they have become a place to assess and treat inmate mental health problems, as well.    

Appearing on Smart Talk Monday to discuss the county jail suicide data is PA Post reporter Ed Mahon, Claire Shubik-Richards, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, and Brinda Penyak, deputy director, County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania 

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Claire Shubik-Richards, executive director of PA Prison Society, and Brinda Penyak, deputy director, County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.

Also, last week was a busy one at the Capitol with Human Services budget briefings. WITF Transforming Health reporter Brett Sholtis joins Smart Talk to discuss the big issues likely to come up during the remaining legislative session 

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Ed Mahon, PA Post reporter, and Brett Sholtis, WITF’s Transforming Health reporter.

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