The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

September 18, 2013

Ohio prisons investigating ways to prevent inmate suicides

The Columbus Dispatch

— Ohio is hiring a leading national expert on inmate suicides in the wake of two high-profile suicide cases.

Dr. Lindsay M. Hayes, project director of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives in Mansfield, Mass., will be paid $13,125 to examine inmate mental health assessments and other protocols and procedures, according to Gary Mohr, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Mohr said Hayes will team with Fred Cohen, a law professor who is now a health-care consultant to state prisons and previously served as the federally appointed monitor in the settlement of a lawsuit challenging inmate medical care.

Mohr said he decided to bring in Hayes and Cohen in light of concerns because of two recent suicides — Death Row prisoner Billy Slagle on Aug. 4 and Ariel Castro on Sept. 3. Slagle just three days away from his execution date, while Castro had served just one month of his life sentence for kidnapping three Cleveland women and holding them hostage in his home for nearly a decade.

“I care about everyone we have responsibility for, no matter what they’ve done,” Mohr said.

Hayes and Cohen will be in Ohio next month and will submit a report to Mohr by Nov. 15.

“We want them to look at the most recent suicides and those going back a couple of years. We’r e going to open up the books to them,” Mohr said.

An investigative report released Monday indicated that Clay Putnam, 19, a probationary officer on duty on Death Row the night of Slagle’s suicide, did not make his required rounds and falsified an electronic log to indicate he did. He and another officer were suspended with pay shortly after the incident.

Castro’s suicide remains under investigation. Two corrections officers were suspended in that case as well.