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Mass. Hires Specialist To Address Inmate Suicides

A surge in the number of inmate suicides in state prisons has prompted Massachusetts to hire a suicide prevention specialist.

Leslie Walker, executive director of the state's Prisoners' Legal Services, says she helped push for the hiring of Lindsay Hayes, the project director of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives.

"He has saved untold numbers of lives nationally by teaching Departments of Corrections, or trying to to teach them what they need to do to prevent suicides," Walker said.

Hayes compiled a report for the state Department of Corrections in 2007 after a rash of inmate suicides the year before.  The department did not comply with all of Hayes' recommendations, Walker says.

"Mr. Hayes recommended that prisoners who are expressing suicidal thoughts not be placed in empty cells without any of their property including books, photographs, toiletries, soap," Walker said.

Officials say eight prisoners have killed themselves this year, including a 51-year-old former Waltham man found hanging in his cell at Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater on Thursday. John Pappageris was serving three to four years for breaking and entering.

Massachusetts prisons have a suicide rate of about 71 per 100,000 inmates this year, more than quadruple the average annual national rate of 16 per 100,000 inmates, according to the U.S. Bureau for Justice Statistics.

This program aired on July 16, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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