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Mecklenburg Sheriff’s Office says suicide attempts are rising at the jail

Mecklenburg's main jail uptown continues to struggle making safety checks on inmates.
Lisa Worf
Mecklenburg's main jail uptown continues to struggle making safety checks on inmates.

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office says there’s been a notable rise in suicide attempts at the jail. So far, 15 attempts have been reported this year.

The sheriff’s office says in all of 2023 there were 19 attempts and in 2022 the sheriff’s office successfully intervened to stop 24 attempts. One man, William Rhinesmith, did die by suicide in 2022. Rhinesmith, 47, was found hanging in his cell. A state inspection indicated officers missed nearly one-fifth of mandated safety checks in the 36 hours surrounding his death.

The sheriff’s office reached a settlement in April regarding a 2021 suicide death. Devin Haley, 41, was found hanging in his cell. His family sued the sheriff’s office and Wellpath, the jail’s health care provider at the time. According to the lawsuit, Haley never received the ant-depressants he had repeatedly asked for and was prescribed. A state inspection indicated officers missed several safety checks in the 24 hours before they found his body. The sheriff’s office says it contributed $275,000 — or 10% of the total settlement.

A press release from the sheriff’s office says Sheriff Garry McFadden “remains confident in the dedication and capability of his officers” — and the jail’s new health care provider, VitalCore Strategies, to continue to intervene and stop suicide attempts. The release also stated an officer recently saved an inmate’s life with the assistance of fellow inmates, underscoring “our commitment to vigilance and teamwork in preventing tragedies.”

The press release also mentioned staff receiving “rigorous training” to handle emergency medical responses and crisis intervention — and that there’s “seamless coordination” between security administration, medical teams and mental health units to ensure prompt responses.

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Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.