Suicides prompt new measures at Davis County Jail

Local News

FARMINGTON, Utah (ABC4 News) – Davis County Sheriff Kelly Sparks is changing procedures after a pair of suicides at the jail this month.  Deputies will now check on newly-booked inmates every 30 minutes.

“Those both are very tragic, you know our hearts go out to the families of both those individuals,” said Sheriff Sparks. 

ABC4 news not releasing any more information on the suicides out of respect for the families but can tell you these are the first suicides at the jail in four years, so we talked to the sheriff about the booking procedures.

“All of our inmates who come in for a new booking get interviewed by a nurse,” said the sheriff. “So they do both a health screening and they do a little mental health questionnaire just to try and identify any of those issues.”

The nurses complete the initial health screening and a mental health questionnaire outside of a deputy’s presence. That’s so the two can get personal about issues.

“And in addition to that kind of initial screening, within the first day or two, an inmate here at the jail will be seen by a contract mental health provider.  So that mental health provider will talk to the inmate and do an assessment again to see if they have issues or need any kind of help,” the sheriff added.

Last February to try and get some data on suicides at the jail, the sheriff asked his staff at the jail how many people prevented a suicide?

Roughly 150 employees responded to the survey.

“80 percent of our current staff have intervened in at least one suicide at least one time during their career,” said Sheriff Sparks. “20 percent of our staff have intervened in up to 10 suicide attempts.”

This brings up a bigger issue we addressed with Sheriff Sparks surrounding suicide. 

“Utah has, as you know well,  high incidents of suicide in our state. We would love to prevent them in the community. We would love to be able to prevent them in the jail,” he told ABC4 News Investigator Jason Nguyen.

The sheriff says there could be a number of contributing factors to suicides in general like COVID-19.

“There has been a number of things I think in the community that are in increasing a lot of the anxiety or angst people have, and certainly on the folks who are being booked in jail and have new charges. That’s one more step elevating that depression,” said Sheriff Sparks. 

He says you’d never know unless you ask the question to a loved one, are you contemplating suicide? 

“Most of the research that I’m familiar with indicates that you are not going to suggest they are going to do suicide just by asking the question,” he said.  “In other words, if you ask them if they are having those kind of thoughts, you’re not going to plant those thoughts in their mind if they are not already there.” 

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

National Alliance on Mental Illness Utah: namiut.org

Jason Nguyen
Jason Nguyen is an award-winning reporter and photojournalist who is back with ABC4 News as the lead reporter on Good Morning Utah, bringing over a decade of news experience to the team.

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