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Op-Ed: Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide was part of a much bigger crisis in U.S. jails and prisons

[ – 8/19/19]

The New York City medical examiner’s ruling that sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein killed himself in jail has prompted a lot of hand-wringing about conditions in the facility where he was held. But if the nation had been paying attention, no one would have been particularly surprised by what happened.

The United States is in the midst of a prison suicide epidemic. In 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicides accounted for about 1.6% of overall U.S. deaths. That same year, the latest for which Bureau of Justice Statistics have been released, suicides accounted for about 4% of deaths in federal prisons, about 7% of deaths in state prisons, and a whopping 35% of deaths in local jails.

Alabama, where I live, is at the center of the crisis. The state prison suicide rate here is nearly triple the national average, and there’s evidence the numbers are even worse than we know.

In 2017 and 2018, Alabama prisons reported 15 suicides during a 15-month period. Incarcerated men were found hanging from windows, cell doors, light fixtures, vents. One man jumped to his death from a second-floor cellblock. At least 30 people have killed themselves during the last five years while in the custody of the Alabama Department of Corrections.

The issue of suicide has been brought front and center in a landmark class-action lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program and private attorneys over the state’s prison mental healthcare, which a federal judge called “horrendously inadequate.”

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  1. Frank

    It is believed he committed suicide because a state appointed examiner said so…And they don’t have an invested interests of the Government as well as a clear and certain bias towards sex offenders !
    Well…his death leaned more to homicide than suicide, ls say you were on a jury and evidence of his death was presented to you, you know circumstances, guards diddling, cameras jacked up paperwork messed with all he just so happens to end up this or that way ! Now compare how many poopsies happen on professionals shifts…you know the saying … fake heroes like to give….NOT ON MY WATCH !….WELL…YOU CAN say coincidence or something is real smelly around here ! If you look at autopsy reports about multiy neck bones broken like his it is more favorable to say he was murdered rather lean towards suicide !
    Because the Government must be accountable….the law is meant to be a Teacher not a Master Butcher…Health and Safety as well as Correction is Mandatory, not kinda sorta a Hit and Miss thing as if Human life doesn’t matter !
    Good Luck Self-righteous People !

  2. FinallyOffTheReg

    Hello everyone.

    I thought and fretted and thought more about just how to add a level of credulity to this article. This, based on my own experience while detained and having a suicide take place on the block I was on.

    For me, and this is just MY view; what is saw changed my life forever. It broke me. I cried for days for the Man who chose a path of Suicide. I still many years later remember every single thing about Him.

    He was on the “upper tier” and allegedly in for an allegation of a *ex Offense. I saw him a lot. He was broken and frightened, and clearly crying all the time. His Celly, a supposedly standup Fella was allegedly Raping him multiple times a day as a retribution. Allegedly too he was on suicide watch, but not isolated. Commissary would not sell him shoe-laces, nor was he allowed them for obvious reasons. But, commissary had no issue selling a 12ft extension cord to him which is what he hung himself with.

    When he was found by a guard, and it was only within 10 mins since the last cell check, he was hanging by that extension cord. The guards and medical worked on him trying to bring him back. I could see from my cell window directly up to the upper tier to the cell directly across from me their efforts. For 30 mins a variety of medical personnel and guards worked to try and revive him. Must have been 30 staff involved. Every time they “shocked” him with the paddles, I could see his whole body jerk. There were guards in tears. Medical staff in tears. I was in tears.

    But there were other detainees who LOVED IT. They were whooping and hollering and loving the fact that this Man chose death.

    This man was carried by staff down to a stretcher that was 15 feet from my cell door window and placed there on his back. His eyes were wide open. There were tears on both sides of his face and still in his eyes. The tears sparkled like diamonds. I could clearly see him. However the look on his face was one of fear and terror. It was not a face I will ever forget. Vacant and horrified, and in so much pain. Twisted and so full of horror. It changed my life forever. I wanted to hold him, I wanted to say something, I wanted to rip the clothing from my body in protest of his death.

    There was the “standard” investigation. Of course the final report was that he was “pronounced” at the hospital. Well, NO. He was dead inside the cell block.

    I never knew much about him. I tried one time to talk to him at “pill line” as I saw he was so in despair. He was terrified. He didn’t reply to my asking “how are you”.

    I think about him often. I know he left behind some family. But beyond that I don’t know much. But I will never forget his face. I hope that in some spiritual sense that his soul travelled to a safe place. But the look on his face, laying there on the gurney, eyes terrified, and face contorted makes me doubt that.

    This has been my PERSONAL experience with this subject. It haunts me. It injects itself into my dreams a lot. I feel that if I could have just talked to him, maybe just maybe I could have shown this man friendship and love and gave him hope. I didn’t know him. But I carry that burden; either right or wrong.

    In summary: He took his own life alone. By himself, and in utter despair. There but for the Grace of God Walk I.

    Thank you for letting me share.

    • R M

      @FinallyOffTheReg: Wow, I’m sorry he chose this path and I’m sorry you had to see it. I too saw some awful-wish-I’d-never-seen-things-in-prison too. I’ve never told anyone what I saw, no-one. I keep those haunting memories to myself. Your telling though maybe can help some I hope. For me, I hate the whole Jeffery news, controversy, stories, videos, etc…. they just make me relive what I hope to forget.

      • FinallyOffTheReg

        Thank you for your thoughts.

        I agree. There are things seen while incarcerated that one cannot carry forward into the “world”. I have seen the worst and the best of people while under the Bars. I have too seen things that break my heart to this day.

        I have a good friend who is a notable defense attorney here in Connecticut with whom I was trying to explain the “smell” of prison. How the metal on the doors has a taint, how the laundry comes back with a particular foul odor. Nothing ever is “clean”. How I remember how my skin felt, how I remember how I could smell the foulness and it was particular.

        I say this because WE who have endured this carry it in quiet places inside us. However I feel it is important to share these things on a forum such as this, and others. It is a deep change that takes place to have one’s freedom ripped away. To endure incarceration and to be in concert with others in a place of such primitive survival is a immutable change to the soul.

        Detention is the worst of it. It is designed to break a person. It is purposeful and sharp in its design. Prison, vis-à-vis finally getting to a spot let’s say like a Fort Dix is the goal; just to move to a better spot. But the Detention: lock downs 20 hours a day, foulness in cells, foul food, foul laundry and foul smells are purposeful. This break the mind. I feel strongly that such environments give rise to many detainees deciding that his or her life is no longer worth living. I know I thought about it, I really did.

        Years under detention as my life cycle gradually wound down. Dark winters with just one blanket and an angry celly whom I could have no meaningful conversation. Oh, it affects even today every part of whom I am. I wish I never had to go through it. I am NOT a “better man” because of it. I see it on my face from whom I was before. I carry that burden in the lines now on my face. The way my eyes are. I compare it to photos of me before. I am NOT the same man. I miss the Man I was before.

        But Life goes on. And so must all of us who have experienced this. For me the choice is Binary. Maybe for all of us its Binary. I don’t profess to know. What I do know is that I am blessed to have now simpler things in life for which I am eternally thankful. A fine breakfast, good sleep, the love of a partner (wife), and the ability to smell the crispness of a Fall day. Small things now. But oh-so-meaningful. I hope that makes sense.

        Be well and take care. Namaste.

        • Ted

          Let’s Stop all the Non Sense !
          If someone is tortured and has no Protection it is the Governments fault !
          Grow up people !

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