Mich. jail modifies showers after 2 suicides, 51 attempted suicides

There were 51 attempted suicides and two suicides at the jail between 2011 and 2018


Alexa Zoellner
The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Steps aimed at increasing the safety of inmates at Grand Traverse County's jail continue to be taken by county officials.

County commissioners on Wednesday approved spending $15,875 for modifications to shower walls in 10 jail cells.

There were 51 attempted suicides and two suicides — Marilyn Lucille Palmer and Alan Bradley Halloway — at the jail between 2011 and 2018. Both Halloway and Palmer hanged themselves, on July 21, 2017, and Feb. 28, 2018, respectively.

Palmer hanged herself in the shower area of her cell — it was 10 years to the day that Sarah Lynn Clark did the same. Family members took Clark off a respirator on March 3, 2008, and she died soon after, as previously reported.

Steel walls that currently provide privacy are larger than they need to be and have holes and bars that can be used as tie-off points for a noose, said Capt. Todd Ritter, jail administrator for the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office. Those will be removed and replaced with smaller, rounded concrete walls that don’t have any place on which to tie something, he said.

Additional changes to other shower areas are expected in the near future, Ritter said, but he declined to comment on what. He said he doesn’t want to give people ideas on how to harm themselves.

Other steps taken to date include entering into an expanded mental health services contract with Northern Lakes Community Mental Health; forming a crisis intervention team — all staff are being trained on how to identify mental health crises; and modifications to two isolation cells so it’s easier for staff to observe inmates, Ritter said.

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©2019 The Record-Eagle (Traverse City, Mich.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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