Suicide prevention expert begins study at Bristol County House of Corrections
DARTMOUTH — A nationally recognized expert on suicide prevention in correctional facilities has started an assessment of the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, according to information provided by the sheriff’s office.
Lindsay M. Hayes, who headed the U.S. Justice Department’s only nationwide reviews of correctional suicides, arrived at the Bristol County House of Corrections Monday, March 6, and met with Sheriff Paul Heroux and sheriff’s office staff to begin his review.
“We have a blind spot somewhere,” Sheriff Heroux said. “Lindsay brings decades of experience in the field of jail suicides and will be a fresh set of eyes on our policies, procedures and operations around inmate suicide.”
Reducing jail suicides was a major policy priority for Heroux in his successful campaign to defeat previous sheriff Thomas Hodgson in the 2022 election.
According to the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, at least 16 people died by suicide between 2006 and 2017 while in the custody of the Bristol County House of Correction — the highest number in the state correctional system during that period.
In 2018, then-state Attorney General Maura Healey (who is now the governor) asked the state to investigate the jail following a series of lawsuits filed against the sheriff’s office.
In those lawsuits, inmates alleged those placed in suicide watch units face poor conditions, including small units, limited time outside of the segregation cells, denial of social, recreational, educational, and rehabilitation programs, and a filthy and noisy environment.
Most recently, a 41-year-old New Bedford man hanged himself in his cell a day after Heroux took office in January.
Hayes will spend three days on site at both the House of Corrections in Dartmouth and the Ash Street Jail in New Bedford. He began his review with a walk-through with mental health clinicians visiting inmates on suicide watches.
Other areas he will look at include training data, booking procedures and screening, vendor relations with the BCSO’s medical partner, Correctional Psychiatric Services, and a review of five years’ worth of suicide incidents and mortality reviews.
He aims to have a report with his findings and recommendations completed in a month or so. The report, he said, will look at eight areas: Training, admission/screening, communication, housing, observation, intervention/emergency response, incident reports and investigative review.
Since 1983, Hayes has served as a consultant in providing staff training and program assessment/development services in the area of suicide prevention in correctional facilities to various county and state jurisdictions throughout the country.
He has also served as the suicide prevention consultant to the Special Litigation Section of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in their investigations of conditions of confinement in various correctional facilities. He has worked with the Mass. Department of Corrections and several other county correctional systems in the Bay State.