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Two suicides in one month at Pima County Jail

Posted at 10:11 PM, Jun 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-19 01:21:05-04

Editors note: If you're feeling suicidal or you're having suicidal thoughts, help is out there. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


Over the course of one month, two inmates at the Pima County Jail took their own lives.

The first incident happened on May 16, 2018; Norman Schrank, booked on a first degree murder charge, among others, killed himself eight days after his arrest. One month later on June 16, 2018, the second incident occurred. Brian Ferry, awaiting sentencing after being convicted on two first degree murder charges, killed himself.

"There was no indication at any point where we thought that they were suicidal, or they were a threat to themselves or others," Lieutenant Elsa Navarro said. 

Navarro explained neither Ferry nor Schrank were ever on suicide watch, and there was never a point where officers or jail psychologists deemed they should be. Both were evaluated upon their arrival at the jail, which is standard procedure for all inmates, according to Navarro.

"Both of these inmates were evaluated by our medical and mental health staff," Navarro said. "They were found to be okay to house in general population housing, so there wasn't anything that we would have done any differently."

Nationwide, about a third of inmate deaths are suicides, according to information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Tucson psychologist Dr. Elena Parra is not the jail psychologist and didn't know Schrank or Ferry. That being said, she's spent a significant amount of time working with people who've spent serious time behind bars.

"All of a sudden, they are confronted with the fact that they are going to be spending many, many years in prison," Parra said. "When they confront those feelings of sadness, that they were trying so hard to push aside, then they don't know how to cope with it."

Navarro says the jail doesn't take these incidents lightly, and they're currently investigating both incidents. At this point, it doesn't appear that any necessary procedures slipped through the cracks that would have prevented both suicides, according to Navarro.

"If there is any indication or any signs that they might be in trouble, we get them the help that they need as soon as possible," she said. "We followed every single one of our procedures. Our rounds to make sure these safety and security checks were done, were done on time. There was life saving measures that were performed on each one of these inmates to make sure that we did our part to save their lives, if there was a possibility of doing so."

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, click here for a list of resources and for more information.