Community Perspective: Suicides at Middle River Regional Jail demands accountability

A contributed perspectives piece by Connie Wright-Zink

I hope I am not the only person in our community to find the New Year’s Eve suicide of an inmate at Middle River Regional Jail (“MRRJ”) utterly unacceptable. This marks the 3rd suicide at this facility in as many years: one in September of 2020 and the second in March 2019. As a member of Virginia Organizing I have been active in joining several community groups who continue to monitor the lack of leadership at MRRJ and the apparent lack of interest of city and state officials to hold MRRJ administration accountable for their failure to prevent these deaths.

In the past news articles stated that according to Jail and Medical Examiner reports indicate that nearly half of the inmates first booked into Virginia jails took their own lives within the first 10 days of incarceration. This most recent case on New Years’ Eve seems to follow in that vein. Yet even with assurances of internal and external investigations, MRRJ seems wholly unequipped to prevent these unnecessary deaths. It makes me wonder how on earth MRRJ administration and staff propose to do better if they are granted funds to expand this jail by 500 beds, which they continue to push for, against community objections.

Where are the City and State officials who should be demanding accountability from this regional jail? It is time for public officials like the sheriffs, the city councils and representatives like Ben Cline to protect the lives of our inmates and stop letting MRRJ run itself like a callous warehouse of disposable  souls.

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