David Hammock was one of nine men who took their own lives in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary between 2012 and 2015. Convicted of arson at age 18 for burning down the old Sallisaw High School, he failed at chances to gain early release, and then, in the end, lost hope.
Between 2012 and 2015, nine inmates in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary took their own lives, giving Oklahoma’s only state-owned maximum security prison the highest suicide rate among corrections facilities. Is solitary confinement to blame?
When the mentally ill are in crisis, the first and only responders are usually police officers. That can heighten the risk of a violent confrontation, which is what occurred in the case of Eric Tompkins of Ardmore last year. Some communities are trying a different approach to allow mental-health experts to intercede, in collaboration with police.
A spike in fatalities in Oklahoma jails this year and several confrontations between police and the mentally ill have raised questions about whether officers and jailers are sufficiently trained to deal with people with mental health problems.
Gary Clark, schizophrenic for years, stood on his front porch one day, holding a kitchen knife and experiencing a mental-health crisis. Officers would end up shooting him with pepper balls, shocking him with a Taser and firing three bullets into him.