Inmate may have propped up bed to hang himself
The Montgomery County inmate who officials believe hanged himself Sunday was not on a suicide watch, and he propped a bunk bed on its end to gain more height from which he tied a bedsheet, the county’s corrections chief said Tuesday, citing initial findings in the investigation.
Should the inmate's death on Sunday prove to be suicide, it would be the first such case in Montgomery County in 10½ years, Arthur Wallenstein, director of the county’s Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, said in an interview.
Last Wednesday, when the prisoner, Thomas L. Miller, 32, arrived at the Montgomery County Detention Center in Rockville, he was asked a series of questions as part of a “behavioral health assessment,” Wallenstein said. Miller told officials he was a drug user going through withdrawal, and was put on a medical protocol related to the drug use, according to Wallenstein.
“Of course we’re reviewing the matter,” said Wallenstein, who said he has not identified any incorrect actions taken. “We’ll stand our record against any large jail in this country” in terms of inmates’ mental health issues, he said.
Corrections staff checked Miller every 30 minutes, as they routinely do for all inmates, Wallenstein said. Miller was alone in his cell in part because the facility had a low population ebb over the weekend.
Miller was being held on charges related to drug possession, planned drug distribution and probation violation, according to Wallenstein.
Miller was found hanging from the bed with a sheet around his neck at 2:30 a.m. Sunday, according to Montgomery County police, who are investigating the incident. Correctional officers immediately removed the sheet and tried to save his life, police said. Miller was pronounced dead about 70 minutes later at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. Police have said they do not suspect foul play.
A police spokeswoman on Tuesday said there was no immediate word if an initial autopsy had been completed by the state's medical examiner.
In other parts of the country, inmates have committed suicide by hanging themselves from beds as few as three feet off the ground, Wallenstein said.
-- Dan Morse
December 15, 2009; 12:54 PM ET
Categories: Dan Morse , Montgomery , Prison Beat , Updates
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