Rise in suicide attempts in Texas prisons alarms advocates

Rise in suicide attempts in Texas prisons alarms advocates
FILE - In this June 26, 2013, file photo, the Huntsville "Walls" Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit, where the death chamber is located, is shown in Huntsville, Texas. Since 2011, the rate of attempted suicide in the prisons of Texas, one of America's most heavily incarcerated states, has steadily risen, records show. The rate of actual suicides has been more sporadic, although it was higher on average in the last five years than the five before that. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

DALLAS (AP) — The number of suicide attempts among Texas prisoners logged by authorities has nearly tripled in the last decade.

That’s according to documents The Associated Press obtained from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The suicide attempts rose from less than 700 in 2009 to nearly 2,000 in 2018 even as the number of people imprisoned in the state has fallen.

Prisoner rights advocates see this rise as proof that Texas’ state-run prisons need more outside oversight. However, corrections staff and some elected leaders suggest the increase can be attributed to prison staffs being more focused on monitoring a growing number of inmates with serious mental health needs.

Officials say the state’s prisons also have changed what they define as a suicide attempt, which has led to more attempts being counted.