Commentary

Editorial calls for immediate action to address emergency in NC jails

Be sure to check out this morning’s lead editorial in the Greensboro News & Record and its call for immediate action to address to an urgent crisis in North Carolina’s county jails.

State officials should stop dragging their feet and take strong action to stop the growing number of deaths from suicide and drug overdose among inmates in county jails.

So far this year, according to a recent report from Disability Rights NC, 17 inmates have killed themselves in jails in the state, up from 12 the year before. The rate of deaths from drug overdoses has been climbing, too, with the latest available numbers showing 11 in 2018 as compared to four in 2017. North Carolina’s death rate among inmates is higher than the national average.

As the editorial goes on to point out, new rules have been proposed by the state Department of Health and Human Services to address some of the contributing factors, but some local sheriffs have been objecting and slowing down the process. This, the editorial says, needs to change:

Sure, some of the rules could probably use tweaking and maybe more input from those who deal with inmates regularly. But the need for change is obvious, and the general idea of the rules sounds reasonable.

They include such things as better screening of new prisoners for physical and mental health problems, more reliable checks on inmates’ welfare, and suicide-prevention programs.

These deaths tend to follow a sad pattern. Most of the deaths from drug overdoses happen within the first 24 hours a prisoner is locked up. Many are another terrible aspect of the devastating opioid epidemic. Often, people in fear of being arrested take all the drugs they have rather than face charges for having them. Careful screening before locking them up could save lives.

Most suicides happen within the first 12 days a person is in jail, and many are related to mental health problems that could be managed better if jail staff is aware of them. Because many mental institutions have closed, more mentally ill people wind up in jail, and many aren’t able to cope with the situation.

The bottom Line: Human beings are dying who don’t deserve such a fate, As the editorial notes in conclusion:

Rules can be modified if need be, but lives can’t be restored. It is past time to make these changes.

Click here to read and share the entire editorial.

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