Jail making changes prior to report | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Jail making changes prior to report

by Scott Murphy

Regardless of whether the panel had convened, numerous changes recommended in a grand jury report released Friday would have taken place in the Douglas County Jail, said Sheriff Ron Pierini on Tuesday.

In its report, the grand jury linked understaffing at Minden’s jail with three suicides that occurred during a 12-month period ending in April.

Pierini said Tuesday that additional staffing and extra training, which are now in place, perhaps could have prevented Thomas Soria Sr.’s suicide in January.

Also, Pierini said the jail staff felt a lot of pressure in guarding Soria, the defendant in a high-profile trial for the murder of 9-year-old Krystal Steadman.

Also, in the wake of Joseph E. Manoukian’s suicide in April, Pierini said jail cell doors now remain open during the day.

Manoukian hung himself with a bed sheet while in a closed jail cell.

“I don’t know what we could have done better,” he said. “There was no indication (Manoukian) was suicidal. He appeared happy that he was placed on trustee status.”

Manoukian had been sentenced to six months in jail two days prior to hanging himself. He died two days later.

Because of Manoukian, however, inmates are now questioned more extensively after being admitted into the jail to check further for any potential suicidal tendencies.

One complaint lodged by the grand jury concerning an outside contract with a mental health agency is contested by Pierini. He said his jail has a contract in place with Douglas County Mental Health Services.

Pierini also noted a recent inmate suicide in Las Vegas in a “suicide-proof” jail cell as proof that sometimes it’s virtually impossible to prevent such incidents.

“We don’t want any more” suicides, he said. “But no matter what, there’s not going to be an absolute. It just can happen.”

Also, his jailers are now receiving additional training in suicide prevention.

However, Pierini doubts any rule change could have prevented the death of an inmate in 2000 who died of a drug and alcohol overdose in jail. He was intoxicated at the time of his arrest.

Pierini said Douglas County jailers are now more careful about admitting intoxicated prisoners into the jail and refuse admission of drunken or high inmates without the suspect being evaluated at a local medical center.

“We would have done these changes without a grand jury,” Pierini said.

Pierini admits the jail is understaffed and he has tried to provide more supervision in the jail with limited resources.

Thirteen new cameras have been installed in the jail.

However, the grand jury’s suggestion of keeping a sergeant on staff at all times in the jail would require hiring three additional sergeants for the jail and is not economically feasible, Pierini said.

Also, a request Pierini made last year to the county commission for two new positions in the jail was denied.

However, Pierini said the jail needs at least two and maybe three new jailers.

Pierini, who appeared before the grand jury twice answering questions about his department, said he appreciates the work done by jurors.

“It’s a useful tool,” he said. He added he welcomed the audit of his agency.

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