After the fourth suicide at the Hudson County Correctional Facility in slightly more than six months, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and the Hudson County Board of Freeholders plan to replace CFG Health Services LLC, the company hired to provide healthcare to inmates.
Carlos Borroto, 26, of West New York was brought to the jail on March 24 after telling West New York police that he wanted to jump off a bridge. He was apparently mistakenly put in with the general jail population.
County officials also confirmed that Borroto was known to be a suicide risk as indicated on records from a prior arrest in May, 2017.
This makes the seventh death at the facility in the last 18 months.
“During the transition period, prior to a new provider replacing CFG, I will recommend to the Board of Chosen Freeholders that the county seek the services of a professional medical monitoring firm to oversee CFG’s service to those in our custody,” DeGise said. “One death is too many among those in our custody.”
Freeholder Bill O’Dea, a member of the freeholders’ Public Safety Committee, asked for a review of the prisoner’s intake form, and questioned what mental health professionals are on duty at the jail from Friday to Monday.
DeGise said CFG’s responsibility is to evaluate the inmate at intake and tell jail officials the appropriate part of the jail to put them.
Borroto was found hanging in his cell on Sunday with a laundry bag tied around his neck, according to county spokesman Jim Kennelly.
The man had been arrested by the West New York police for outstanding warrants from North Bergen that included domestic violence, aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and other charges.
When arrested, Borroto reportedly told police he wanted to jump off a bridge, so he was brought to Palisades Medical Center for evaluation. He was later returned to police custody and brought to the county jail.
Kennelly said Borroto told intake officers that he had mental health issues. In May, during a previous incarceration, Borroto had indicated to the staff that he had had suicidal thoughts.
The records apparently were not reviewed properly, allowing the man to enter the general population, Kennelly said.
During a visit the jail on March 26, DeGise viewed the cell where Borroto took his life and where corrections officers raced to his aid.
“It’s time for the state to step in and takeover, as independent oversight/reform/action is needed.” – Steven Fulop
DeGise orders termination of medical contract
After a review at the jail, DeGise called for the termination of the contract.
CFG Health Services LLC, which describes itself on its website as “providing comprehensive healthcare management at correctional facilities,” has been under fire by activists over previous deaths as well as other issues raised in two reports to the county.
CGF will remain the provider for the county until freeholders can put out a request for a proposal for other vendors.
DeGise said CFG failed to note Borroto’s previous intake history that showed the inmate expressing suicidal intentions.
DeGise went on to say that as a result of this latest incident, and other failures to meet an appropriate standard of care, he has directed the County Counsel’s Office to begin accelerated termination of CFG’s contract to provide medical services at the jail.
County officials said discussions about possible termination have been ongoing since other deaths in 2017.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop was critical of the jail, and supported an editorial printed in January that said what is happening at the Hudson County jail is unacceptable.
“It is an example of where national reform is needed. It’s time for the state to step in and takeover, as independent oversight/reform/action is needed,” Fulop said.
The freeholders are to evaluate proposed candidates to act as monitor until a new contractor can take over. The county signed a $29 million five-year contract with CFG in November, 2016.
Laundry bags with strings of any kind have been removed from the new inmate housing unit.
Suicide and heart failure are the most common types of death among the incarcerated, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
A bad history
After two suicides in February, Hudson County authorized major changes in procedure as well as in facilities in order to help prevent additional deaths.
“In response to the suicide deaths of two female inmates in 2017, I authorized the creation of a separate $1.2 million female psychiatric care unit,” DeGise said. “Now in the wake of this tragedy, we must act again. We will seek out the best possible provider to replace CFG, one with a history of success in dealing with the significant challenges in treating mental illness among the incarcerated.”
In February, four medical staff personnel at the jail were suspended as part of an ongoing investigation over a number of deaths, five in 2017.
Three of these deaths were considered suicides, including a high profile case of a man transferred from Atlantic City who was supposed to be on a suicide watch. A woman who committed suicide was found to have more than three liters of foreign matter such as a nail clipper in her stomach.
Although the jail set up a number of intermediate steps to prevent additional suicide deaths, including installation of new cameras that would review activity in jail cells, the death this week clearly pushed county officials into taking additional steps.
A federal Homeland Security Report issued late last year said the county jail had problems with providing medication to inmates and dietary issues. The lack of needed medication may have contributed to one or more of the deaths at the jail.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.