CASTLE HAYNE, NC (WWAY) — After accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide in a New York jail cell, questions are being raised about what it means to be under suicide watch. In New Hanover County, there are a strict set of procedures the jail must follow.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Jerry Brewer says a mental health specialist evaluates all inmates when they arrive at the jail. If someone is placed under suicide watch, he or she will be separated from the general population.
“First, we will put them in a gown that is tear-resistant,” Brewer said. “It is a gown that they wear while they are on suicide watch, we take their clothes from them because they are on suicide watch. They also go into a behavioral management unit.”
Lt. Brewer says deputies and correctional officers will check on those inmates in an irregular pattern at least four times per hour.
“That way they couldn’t look at it and go, ‘he comes by every other ten minutes.’ No, I may come by at five after, I may come by sooner than 15 more minutes.”
Lt. Brewer says officers wear cameras and there are cameras outside of cells, but not inside them. In order for an inmate to be taken off suicide watch, he or she must be cleared by a mental health specialist.
“Once they are taken off and cleared from suicide watch, they will go back into normal population,” Brewer said.
Procedures at the federal prison in New York where Epstein allegedly committed suicide may have different procedures than in North Carolina. Epstein was taken off suicide watch just weeks before his death.