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Boulder jail investigating suicide, possible policy changes

3-11-2010 Colorado:

After a 40-year-old man killed himself at the Boulder County Jail, authorities are investigating how it happened and whether changes are necessary to prevent more inmates from committing suicide.

"We need to evaluate all the facts and take a look at our policies and procedures to see if there is anything we can learn from this," said Division Chief Larry Hank, who oversees the jail. "The staff works very, very hard to prevent these types of events."

Wednesday's suicide was the sixth at the Boulder County Jail since it opened at its current location at 3200 Airport Road in 1988. A sheriff's deputy found Nicholas Andrew White, of Longmont, unresponsive in his jail cell about 4:35 p.m. He apparently hanged himself, according to the Boulder County Sheriff's Office.

White was arrested Feb. 24 on suspicion of four counts of sexual assault on a child and one count of child abuse. He was twice previously convicted of sexual assault on a child.

Wednesday afternoon, White was in his own cell and considered a "protective custody inmate," according to the Sheriff's Office. Deputies had checked on him about 12 minutes before he was found, officials said.

White was not on suicide protocol, which deputies assign to inmates who have made suicidal statements to officers or family members. Hank said those inmates must wear suicide smocks, which can't be used to harm themselves; they are not allowed to have other objects they could use to harm themselves; they must meet with mental health providers; and deputies do welfare checks on them every 15 minutes.

Last year, the jail placed 333 inmates on suicide protocol. This year, to date, the jail has put 51 people on suicide protocol, Hank said.

The first person to kill himself at the Boulder County Jail's current location died after jumping head-first off the second tier of the housing unit. The other five inmates who committed suicide died by hanging themselves with sheets, Hank said.

After investigating previous suicides, the jail has made changes to try to prevent others from doing the same thing. After one person hanged himself from a vent, the jail manufactured coverings that were placed over every vent in the building.

"We have made quite a few changes," Hank said. "It's upsetting for everyone and will have an effect on the inmate population and the work force." ..Source.. by Vanessa Miller, Camera staff writer

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