Seven suicide attempts, two deaths at Abingdon Regional Jail in past month

PHOTO: Samantha Zarek

WASHINGTON COUNTY, VA - Two people have died by hanging in Abingdon's regional jail, out of a total of of seven suicide attempts just since the first of the month. Jail officials say that number is high.

"The last one before prior to these two was from April 2011. So it's been since 2011," says Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority Superintendent Stephen Clear.

This is the only information from state police. No details about who died, whether it was male or female, or exactly when it happened. Clear says all the information was reported to state police and corrections department investigators. he also says staff are following all proper procedures.

Those procedures call for jail personnel to check all inmates twice an hour and increase those checks for inmates considered at suicide risk.

"Once they have been flagged for a possible suicide issue they are moved into a certain area and they are monitored every 15 minutes," says jail administrator Dwayne Lockhart.

An inmate on special watch either threatens suicide or exhibits concerning behavior. Officers are trained to recognize that behavior.

"Identify and recognize anybody that's maybe struggling with being in jail for the first time or not really having issues with withdrawals," Lockhart says.

Jail authorities say drug addiction is apparently a big part of the problem. Virginia State Police and the Department of Corrections continue to investigate these deaths.

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