NC prisons hit with the year's sixth inmate suicide

In an unusually deadly year, the six inmate suicides so far this year exceeds the number for all of 2015, when three suicides were reported

By Ames Alexander
The Charlotte Observer

POLKTON, N.C. — An inmate recently convicted of murder apparently killed himself inside his cell at Lanesboro Correctional Institution Sunday, according to state prisons officials.

The death of prisoner Christopher Blackett appears to be the sixth inmate suicide in North Carolina this year.

It has been an unusually deadly year in the state prisons. The six inmate suicides so far this year exceeds the number for all of 2015, when three suicides were reported.

Blackett, 25, was serving more than 26 years in prison after convictions for second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Blackett was a Fort Bragg soldier from California who was convicted in August 2016 for the 2011 death of his 17-year-old neighbor, Vincent Carlisle II of Spring Lake.

Lanesboro, a maximum-security prison, is located in the Anson County town of Polkton, about 45 miles southeast of Charlotte. The Polkton Police Department is investigating Blackett’s death.

In the 25 years ending in 2015, 68 suicides were reported in the state’s prisons – an average of about 2.7 per year.

North Carolina’s inmate suicide rate has in years past been lower than the national average, but it’s on pace to be higher this year. Nationally, the annual rate has been about 1.6 suicides for every 10,000 state prison inmates. At the current pace, North Carolina will have about two suicides for every 10,000 inmates in 2016.

In June, following the Observer’s coverage about recent inmate suicides, the state prison system rolled out a new plan aimed at preventing more inmates from taking their own lives.

Among other things, the plan requires that:

All prison staff be trained to recognize whether an inmate is at risk of committing suicide.

Every prison conduct three mock drills each year to prepare staff on how to handle an attempted suicide in progress.

Prison mental health professionals do more frequent monitoring of inmates after they come off suicide watch to ensure they’re out of danger.

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