DALLAS – When Sandra Bland died in a small Texas jail last week, she became just the latest name on a long list of inmates whose deaths were determined to be suicides.
Bland's death following her arrest for a minor traffic violation added fresh fuel to the national debate over police use of force on blacks. It also focused new attention on the longstanding problem of inmates who take their own lives.
Studies show that suicide is the leading cause of death in jails after natural illness. In fact, inmates take their own lives three times more often than the average population.
The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics says that since 2000, the total number of jail suicides has remained fairly constant — around 300 a year.