In unrelated incidents, two women prisoners at the York Corr. Institution in East Lyme, Connecticut committed suicide within a ten-day period in March, 1999.
Linda Hogan was found hanging in her cell on March 11 and died the next day. On March 21, 1999, Bobbi-Jo Garcia hung herself with a bed sheet; she had been placed in the prison's medical unit the day before based on a psychological assessment, and was supposed to be under close observation.
Soon after the suicides, five employees with the University of Connecticut Health Center, which provides medical services at the York prison, were suspended or reassigned. The two deaths also resulted in a review of Dept. of Corrections policies related to prisoner classification and staff training.
On March 26 the supervisor of mental health services at the York facility, Karen M. Graf, quit. "It is simply not possible with the existing number of staff hours available to provide adequate mental health assessments ... and to ensure that [prisoners] with mental health needs receive the necessary mental health intervention," she wrote in a memo to Ken Parker, the CEO of Univ. of Connecticut Correctional Managed Health Care. Parker stated he did not share Graf's concerns, saying there were adequate mental health resources at the facility.
On March 31 York prisoner Nancy Forty threatened to slash her throat with a 12-inch piece of glass from a broken mirror; the following day, prisoner Rosalind Lewis twice tried to commit suicide while in the facility's mental health unit. Prison staff intervened in both incidents.
Union officials representing guards at the York facility held a press conference on April 2 criticizing the DOC's leadership and calling for improvements at the prison. "They are cutting corners, cutting costs, at the expense of staff and inmates," said Daniel Kelley, the union steward. Several dozen guards and nurses later demonstrated outside the prison, calling for an increase in staff.
The Connecticut chapter of the ACLU has asked a U.S. District Court to send an independent panel into the York Corr. Institution to review the facility's mental health services. The request was filed under a 1988 consent decree that created the panel to monitor medical care at the prison.
Connecticut Post, Hartford Courant
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