New York Prison Inmate’s Death By Suicide Sparks Questions About Solitary Confinement

A Black man with mental health issues died by suicide while in solitary confinement. 

Now, concerns are being raised as advocates suggest his death could have been prevented. 

According to the Associated Press, a review by the Commission of Corrections revealed Cachin Anderson should have had access to “one to one constant watch” while he was in solitary confinement, especially since he’d made previous threats of suicide.  

The 33-year-old man was serving a 10-year bid for involvement in an assault on a parking attendant. He also assaulted multiple corrections officers on numerous occasions, the
AP reports. 

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During one incident, Anderson dove headfirst from a sink onto the floor and said he “wanted to end it and go home,” the AP reports. 

He was eventually placed in solitary confinement. But experts say confinement is often unsuitable for people who are mentally ill or trying to hurt themselves, the AP reports. 

On June 28, 2017, while in solitary confinement, Anderson killed himself, the AP reports.

According to the Associated Press, the commission wrote in its report, “Had appropriate safety measures been taken, given Anderson’s recent suicidal threats and behavioral changes, his suicide may have been preventable.” 

The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision released a report stating that New York state prison inmates in solitary confinement or long-term “keeplock” units, in which inmates are isolated, were over five times more likely to kill themselves than prisoners in general confinement, the AP reports. 

The report said of the 130 inmate suicides from 2004 to 2013 in New York prisons, 30 were by prisoners in solitary or isolated housing, or a special treatment program, the AP reports.

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Earlier this year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to restrict solitary confinement time to 30 days. Additionally, the state prison system has required corrections officers watching over solitary confinement to make rounds every 30 minutes on a regular basis, the AP reports.

Upon entering solitary confinement, prisoners are to undergo a suicide prevention screening and a mental health assessment. If they are found to be an imminent suicide risk they are instead placed in the Residential Crisis Treatment Program, which is a separate unit inside the prison where correction officers make rounds every 15 minutes and each inmate is monitored under video, according to the Office of Mental Health, the AP reports. 

In this program, inmates also have private daily sessions with a mental health clinician, which helps determine the inmates that should be moved to the Central New York Psychiatric Center in Marcy, New York, for inpatient care, the AP reports. 

These measures are intended to avoid incidents like in the case of Anderson, which could have been preventable, the AP reports. 

His uncle, Larry Evans, a retired corrections officer in Connecticut, said Anderson should have been under close supervision, the AP reports.

“If they knew that something was going on with him, he’s supposed to be in the unit where he’s supposed to be watched — period,” Evans said, the AP reports.  

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