Virginia jails struggle to screen inmates, prevent suicide

National and World

Experts say because many defendants experience anxiety and despair when they are first locked up

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – An Associated Press review of records shows that nearly half of the 50 inmates who took their own lives in Virginia jails over the past five years did so within the first 10 days of incarceration.

State regulations require that inmates have medical and mental health screenings upon admission, but those assessments vary greatly across Virginia’s 58 local and regional jails.

Experts say because many defendants experience anxiety and despair when they are first locked up, it is critical that they are carefully screened as soon as they are processed.

But even screenings don’t help every time. Some families of inmates who have taken their own lives say screenings have failed to detect even those with clear mental health issues.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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