After a person hung himself in his cell last month but was revived by lifesaving efforts, new Lyon County Sheriff Al McNeil became even more concerned about staffing levels in the Lyon County Jail, as that was the third suicide or attempt since the jail opened in early 2013.
Two Lyon County Sheriff’s Office jail deputies revived this victim — McNeil said the inmate was not breathing when discovered (the deputies received lifesaving awards) — so, in essence, the person did commit suicide, he was just brought back to life, so he counts it.
“Two minutes later, it would have been a confirmed suicide,” McNeil said.
McNeil addressed this issue during the Jan. 15 Lyon County Board of Commissioners meeting also showed the Lyon County Board what could have been used for another suicide attempt. He said a noose made from toilet paper was found that supposedly was strong enough to support a person.
“That’s the third in less than two years,” he told the board of the December attempted suicide by hanging.
McNeil said he plans to look for a consulting firm to do a study of the staffing for the Lyon County Jail. He also said he hopes to tour a similar detention facility to Lyon County’s and find out how it is staffing the facility and how many.
The sheriff said the situation has come to the point where jail deputies “are afraid to go to their shifts now” for what they might encounter during it, that they might see “the next (dead) body on their shift.” He said he does feel there is not enough adequate staffing for the jail.
This is something the prior sheriff’s administration had also expressed in the past.
McNeil said while he feels the jail is understaffed, “I don’t know the (staffing) numbers it needs. … I want to take a firm look at the numbers.”
He said he’s been told of a few firms that have the expertise and could analyze the staffing needs.
The sheriff also hopes to visit a similar jail facility, possibly one in Henderson, to “talk operations, how they run,” and “to see what its staffing requirements are. We’ve got to take some action,” he told the commission.
He said in a perfect world, the consultant and the visit to a facility would provide the same numbers for staffing the Lyon County facility, so he could take that to the board of commissioners for “the best way to mitigate potential liability issues.”
McNeil said the jail is “the county’s largest liability issue,” especially when there are deaths.
He said one reason there were no suicides in the old jail the space that was available, or lack thereof. “They (inmates) were piled on top of each other. It would be tough to do in there (carry out a suicide) without someone seeing and another inmate “pressing the button” to alert deputies.
And he said with the additional space, it takes more time for a deputy to walk to look into all the individual cells.
County manager Jeff Page said he was involved in operating the jail for 20 years, and in that time they had three deaths involving inmates, two by suicide and one by natural causes. He said mental health is a big issue now.
“We’re trying to come up with a solution,” he said.
He said the current situation “is a huge issue” and wasn’t being ignored.
“No one’s able to get their arms around it,” he said. “Everyone’s involved working toward a resolution.”