An inmate died by suicide Wednesday night at the Davis County jail where he had been incarcerated for four months, according to the Davis County Sheriff’s Office.
His was the fourth suicide the jail has seen in the past year.
“We are distraught by this young man’s death and send our condolences to his family, friends and loved ones,” said Sheriff Kelly Sparks in a news release.
The jail had five suicides in 2016 and one in 2017. There were no suicides in 2018 and 2019, but there were three in 2020, according to data from the Sheriff’s office.
Three suicide attempts happened at the jail in 2020, according to Sheriff’s Office news releases. Another person survived a fall after climbing over a second-story railing in June 2020. The Sheriff’s Office did not label that accident a suicide attempt.
Sheriff’s Offices spokesperson Liz Sollis said even one suicide or suicide attempt is too many, but said it is not unusual for suicides to happen in jails and prisons. People in jail often have higher rates of mental illness, adverse histories and substance abuse than the general population which might increase suicide risk, Sollis said.
Sollis said suicide is a large problem in Utah, and said mental health problems throughout the country have increased this year.
Sollis said Sheriff Sparks implemented changes to improve mental health when he took office in 2019. These include partnering with Davis Behavioral Health to provide mental health programs and checks on inmates by deputies every 30 minutes. She said new inmates are given psychological evaluations before they are admitted. She said the jail is building a medical wing which will include mental health treatment.
Sara Wolovick, equal justice works fellow at the ACLU of Utah, said prisons and jails are the largest mental health providers in the country, but they shouldn’t be.
“I don’t know what exactly happened with this individual who passed away, but there are real problems in how we handle people having mental health crises and (in) the lack of mental health care for people who are incarcerated,” she said.