TOPEKA, Kan. - After a rash of suicides in the Sedgwick County jail last year, law enforcement officials have installed video cameras in specialized "suicide watch" cells where inmates will be monitored at all times.
The video system, which came online this week, allows watch commanders and deputies to view activity in 14 jail cells from their desktop computers.
In 2004, the Sedgwick County jail, the state's largest detention facility, registered three suicides and 40 attempted suicides. Under past protocol, detention officers made the rounds through the facility's 1,032 cells to check on inmates every 15 minutes.
While there have been no successful suicides so far this year, Sheriff Gary Steed said the video-monitoring system would play an important role in efforts to prevent suicides among inmates awaiting trial.
"This allow us to create a better and safer environment for the inmates," Steed said. "We'll be monitoring for things that will contribute to depression and for situations that can contribute to suicidal tendencies."
Steed said doctors will decide which inmates should be placed in the special cells.
The sheriff's office bought the system for $16,500, using used federal and local funds. The detention facility had an average daily inmate population of 1,470 last year.