Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? That’s exactly the reaction I had when I read this article yesterday. Co-chair of the Judiciary Committee Mike Lawlor claims that the State has spent between $200,00 and $500,00o on “one on one” monitoring of Steven Hayes (one of the accused in the Cheshire murders) since last July. Hayes is on suicide watch and apparently the DOC has assigned a correctional officer to stand outside his cell to watch over him.
Lawlor made a FOIA request to Comm’r Lantz, seeking details of this expenditure.
You know, he could have stopped there. But instead, we get this:
“Systemwide, it costs about $45,000 per inmate per year,” Lawlor said. “This is a lot of money at a time when we’re in a budget situation where we have to make a lot of significant cuts. The question here is whether this is warranted.”
“I am very familiar with what goes on in our correction system, and usually this sort of thing doesn’t go on for very long,” he said of the constant supervision of inmates considered suicide risks. “A month would be unusual; 16 months is unheard of for this type of extraordinary supervision.”
Back in the day, parole released their records, but declined to release the medical variety. I wouldnt’ be surprised if both Hayes and Komisarjevsky had mental health issues. For someone facing the death penalty, in CT’s supermax prison, having suicidal thoughts wouldn’t be that unusual, would it?
Apparently, Lawlor thinks there is or should be a time-limit on suicidal thoughts (hence the tongue-in-cheek title). If he has suicidal thoughts, and has had them since June 2007, then what else is DOC supposed to do?
Wouldn’t that be rational? Does Lawlor know this? No, he’s just speculating:
“It’s one thing if they have a psychiatrist saying that this guy is at high risk,” Lawlor said. “In that case, heightened supervision is perfectly rational. But I get the sense that the main reason to do this is because he is a high-profile guy and it would be embarrassing [for the department] if he were to kill himself under their watch.”
So he clearly doesn’t know whether any psychiatrist has recommended suicide watch. He’s just assuming that there isn’t such a recommendation.
Why do pols feel the need to say something without waiting for facts? Rep. Lawlor, I understand if you’re concerned about the costs here. There are several things you could do: wait until DOC responds to your request, seek abolition of the death penalty, or go to the press.
We know which one won out.
Also, his quote that it normally costs 45K to house inmates is misleading. Different facilities have different average annual costs. He knows that:
“There are some inmates at the Northern Correctional Institution who cost above $100,000 per year to take care of,” he said.
So….what’s the point of mentioning $45K? Sensationalism? (Btw, the average cost of housing an inmate at Garner – where Hayes is currently – is $86K)
This is a very silly thing to be concerned about, in my opinion. If the Co-Chair is concerned about costs in the criminal justice system, he should look at the number of non-violent offenders we have in prison; the number of recidivists we have in prison who end up back there primarily because the State doesn’t give them any tools; he should look at the harsh sentencing in CT and the incredibly long sentences handed out.
He might want to take a look at the conditions in CT prison that actually might lead to suicidal thoughts. Prisons are no luxury camps.
Instead, he wants to pass some legislation about these suicide watch costs:
Lawlor said he expects the General Assembly to take up this issue after it convenes for the 2009 legislative session on Jan. 7. The state is facing budget deficits that are projected to reach $6 billion over the next two fiscal years.
Um. What does that mean? What’s he going to do? Mandate that inmates cannot feel suicidal for more than 6 months per prison term? Or is he going to abolish suicide watch? Tell me what you think he means.
As regular readers will know, Lawlor is quite the mystery to me. At times, he seems to “get it”. He opposed three-strikes, pushed for rehabilitation services and generally seems to recognize that harsh sentencing is not the only answer. But then there are times like this, which leave me scratching my head.