Bristol County Sheriff Heroux Contracts With Inmate Suicide Prevention Expert
Bristol County Sheriff Paul Heroux, addressing his top policy priority to curb the rate of inmate suicides at county jails, has retained the services of a nationally recognized expert in suicide prevention.
BCSO spokesperson Jonathan Darling announced on Thursday that Lindsay M. Hayes, who has reviewed/examined more than 3,800 cases of suicide in correctional facilities throughout the country for more than 42 years, will perform a comprehensive assessment of the Bristol County corrections facilities starting next month.
The hiring of Hayes follows the apparent suicide by hanging by an inmate at the House of Correction in Dartmouth on Heroux's second day as sheriff.
Following the incident, Heroux said that there are "blindspots" in the BSCO's suicide prevention policies that are leading to an extraordinarily high inmate suicide rate and that he needed to retain the services of an expert to figure out where those blindspots are and how to address them.
Heroux previously said on WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight that Hayes came at the recommendation of experts he had invited to conduct an evaluation at the BCSO facilities. This included his old boss Leon King, former commissioner of the Philadelphia prison system, and two of Heroux's former colleagues at the Massachusetts Department of Correction.
“Three different corrections professionals recommended Lindsay, and it is easy to see why based on his qualifications and the conversations we’ve had,” Bristol County Sheriff Paul Heroux said in a statement on Thursday. "We have a blindspot somewhere when it comes to inmate suicides. One of my top priorities is to locate and close that loophole to make our correctional facilities as safe as possible for our inmates and our staff.”
Hayes boasts an extensive resume on suicide prevention in jails and prisons. According to Darling, Hayes has conducted the only five U.S. Justice-Department funded studies on suicides in jails, prisons and juvenile facilities.
He was previously a suicide prevention consultant to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. He also worked for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections and several county jail systems in Massachusetts.
Suicide prevention became a major issue in the 2022 Bristol County Sheriff election between Democrat Heroux and Republican opponent, then-Sheriff Tom Hodgson, following the death of Adam Howe.
Howe was a high-profile detainee held on suspicion of murdering his mother. He died by suicide by asphyxiation while being held at Ash Street Jail in New Bedford, which Heroux is planning to close.
Heroux had also repeatedly criticized Hodgson over county jails reportedly having the highest rate of suicide in the Commonwealth.
Hodgson had maintained that his staff went "above and beyond" what was required of them in detaining Howe. Hodgson also said that his critics would not be able to tell his office what it wasn't doing to curb suicides.
Heroux has made a point to distinguish his position from Hodgson's, opting for a more conciliatory tone on the issue of the inmate suicide rate at the BCSO.
According to Darling, Hayes will start reviewing documents and policies relating to inmate suicides over the next few weeks and will start on-site observations and interviews over the next month.
His assessment of the BSCO will examine eight different aspects of corrections suicide and is based on national correctional standards: BCSO training, screening, communication, housing, supervision, intervention, reporting and follow-up/mortality review.
Once his study is completed, Hayes will produce a written report detailing his findings, conclusions, and recommendation.
“I come in as a fresh set of eyes,” said Hayes, who lives on Cape Cod and previously resided in Mansfield. “Sheriff Heroux reached out to me and was deeply concerned about the suicide rates in the correctional facilities.”