Costly care: Keeping suicidal inmate population safe at OCJ

"One of the things, I think, as a facility administrator you worry about the most is the suicidal inmate population," says Chief Deputy for Corrections, Gregory Pflieger, of the Oneida County Sheriff's Department.

Posted: Aug 13, 2019 5:44 PM
Updated: Aug 13, 2019 5:52 PM

ORISKANY - Keeping the suicidal inmate population safe isn't only a challenge for federal prisons that house high-profile inmates; it's a daily, costly endeavor locally, too.

"One of the things, I think, as a facility administrator you worry about the most is the suicidal inmate population," says Chief Deputy for Corrections, Gregory Pflieger, of the Oneida County Sheriff's Department.

On Tuesday, there were nine inmates on suicide watch, or "constant watch," as it's known, at the Oneida County Jail; eight men and one woman.

"Constant watch supervision is actually an officer with an uninterrupted view of the prisoner at all times. That officer cannot leave the post," said Chief Pflieger, adding that one corrections officer can watch up to four inmates in constant watch; eight in a dorm situation.

Constant watch inmates also require special bedding and clothing, made of heavy quilt-like material with velcro closure. Meal time requires special attention, too.

"When they're served meals, all that stuff is accounted for at the conclusion of their meal," said Pflieger. "If some are that dangerous, we may just put them on a finger food diet as well."

Scheduling becomes a game of skill and vision, nearly impossible to get ahead of, because you never know who will be coming in the door.

"I could come in this morning and I'll have enough staff to man my CSO post, but by this afternoon's 3:00-11:00 shift, based on new admissions, I may be adding two more posts to the roster for the day," said Pflieger.

There are roughly 350 inmates in the Oneida County Jail at any given time.

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