After 30 years without an inmate suicide, the Monroe County Jail has seen two within a year.
Although attempted suicides aren’t uncommon, successful ones are, Sheriff Brad Swain said.
Michael Favor, 33, jumped from the second story railing of his cellblock into a common area Saturday. He died the next morning at IU Health Bloomington, according to a Monroe County Sheriff’s office press release.
Favor was admitted March 23 on a parole violation and possession of methamphetamine.
Before taking his life, Favor took a phone call from his long-term girlfriend. Swain said the girlfriend ended her relationship with Favor during the call.
In April 2015, Jeffrey Dugan Jr., 33, hanged himself in his jail cell. Dugan had also broken up with his long-term girlfriend over the phone before taking his life.
“A person’s emotions change all the time based on what’s going on in their lives,” Swain said. “In both these cases, they were through the intake process and housed, sometime in general population they got news which was upsetting and they acted out.”
Swain encourages inmates’ loved ones to reach out to the jail if they see signs of emotional distress.
“One of the things I hope to do is reach out and raise awareness with family and friends of inmates so that if they are aware that they’re in distress to call the jail and let us know,” Swain said.
Swain doesn’t fault any outside parties for not thinking to alert the jail. In these two cases, a phone call may not have saved the men in time anyway, Swain said.
“I think in both of these cases, even if they had made a phone call, we probably wouldn’t have been able to intervene in the short amount of time,” Swain said.
The Monroe County Jail employs a full-time psychologist to handle mental health issues that arise in the jail. Dr. Don Weller makes the rounds and counsels inmates eight hours per day.
In his first year on the job, Weller counseled 1,180 inmates for mental health reasons, as previously reported by the IDS.
This number represents 20 percent of people booked into the jail annually.
On a national scale, a U.S. Bureau of Justice study reported 64 percent of local jail inmates have a mental disorder. This percentage is higher than both state and federal jail inmates, according to the study.
Neither Favor nor Dugan were on suicide watch or were suspected to be a danger to themselves, Swain said.
Because attempted suicides are common, the jail has protocol in place, he said. If an inmate shows indications of self-harm, they are moved to a more secluded cellblock where they can be closely monitored.
The jail is also waiting on shipments of doors to finish their designated mental health unit, which was scheduled to be finished in 2015, Swain said.
When inmates are booked, they are examined for mental health issues or suicidal tendencies. Statistically, inmates are at the highest risk of self-harm during their first 24 hours spent in the jail, Swain said.
“Oddly enough, a lot of people if you ask if they think they’re going to hurt themselves and they’re in crisis, a lot of times they will say they are,” Swain said. “They do let you know, but the question has to be asked.”