CRIME

State report faults North Carolina jail in teen's suicide

An investigation by North Carolina authorities shows that guards at a county jail failed to properly check on a teen shortly before she hanged herself.

The News & Observer of Raleigh, citing the state Department of Health and Human Services, reports that Durham County jail officers failed to check on Uniece Fennell, 17, regularly and did not report a tip from another inmate that the girl was a threat to herself.

The girl was found hanged March 23. The Office of the Medical Examiner ruled Fennell's death a suicide. She had been in jail since last July on a murder charge in connection with a drive-by shooting.

New Durham jail director Col. Anthony Prignano said he has implemented new policies to make sure officers are checking on inmates in accordance with state regulations. The new policies also prohibit officers from deciding on their own whether an inmate should be on suicide watch.

State regulations require that inmates be checked at least twice an hour. The report by the state said a review of the day before her death shows that schedule was not followed.

The electronic record of checks during the 31 hours around her death show that during two of those hours, there were no checks at all while during four other hours, only one check per hour was conducted.

Had the teen been on suicide watch, state regulations call for four checks per hour.

Prignano said disciplinary steps have been taken, but he would not provide details. He said the discipline did not involve firing, suspensions or demotions, which would be included in the public record.

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Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com