An inmate at the Delaware County prison died by suicide this month, county officials confirmed on Wednesday.
The tragedy marks the third suicide in ten months, all of which came after the county government took over day-to-day management of the facilities last April. It also marks the largest number of suicides the prison has witnessed in any twelve-month time frame since at least 2015, the last year for which data can be found on the state Department of Corrections website.
From 2015 through all of 2021, the George W. Hill Correctional Facility witnessed a total of four suicides, according to a Broad + Liberty analysis of state data.
County spokeswoman Adrienne Marofsky told Broad + Liberty the individual was an 18-year-old man and confirmed the death was ruled a suicide, but did not divulge any further details such as when the inmate was admitted, his race, or any of the circumstances surrounding his time of death.
In June, two inmates also died by suicide in less than a two-week span. County officials have not divulged any information about those incidents beyond the limited amount provided in the warden’s report of July 2022.
In the last year, the county has also had two other deaths that the state would categorize as “extraordinary occurrences.”
Last April, an inmate strangled his cellmate to death.
In February, an inmate died in custody. Officials said the cause of death was “delayed homicide,” meaning “complications from a previous gunshot,” according to Marofsky.
Last fall, the Delaware County Council approved the purchase of 5,000 “suicide blankets” made with a special polyester blend that would make the sheets more difficult to tamper with, according to the Delco Daily Times.
The increase in suicides also comes as the daily population has been decreased by approximately twenty percent.
Delaware County took over day-to-day management from the GEO Group on April 6. GEO was one of two private entities that managed the county jail beginning in the early 1990’s and continuing on when the Hill facility opened in 1998.
At a December meeting of the county council, a prison security guard told the council the safety of the facility had degraded in recent months.
“We are…in fear of our safety on this job,” said correctional officer Albert Johnson. “As of yesterday, two inmates stabbed. There have been more deaths in this prison since the county has come on. We are fearful for our lives with cells that do not lock, from inmates that come out when they want. We get feces, we get urine thrown on us on a daily basis.”
(Video of those remarks starts at 2:10:00 at this link.)
“We certainly value our correctional officers and those who work at the jail,” Councilor Kevin Madden said in response. “Any credible allegations of mistreatment, we take seriously.”
Madden is on the county’s jail oversight board and spearheaded the mission to deprivatize the facility.
In the past, such deaths at the facility had ignited lawsuits, but it is unclear currently if the county is facing any litigation for the murder by strangulation, the delayed homicide, or any of the three suicides.
Other nearby jails and prisons have faced scrutiny because of suicides.
Two suicides in a recent four-month period at the Yeadon municipal jail sparked several protests and calls for investigation.
Bucks County officials in 2022 blamed three suicides that year on an “unprecedented wave of addicts” hooked on fentanyl.
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at email@example.com, or use his encrypted email at firstname.lastname@example.org. @shepherdreports