SALEM, Ore. – KATU News reports that prison inmates successfully organized and carried out an awareness campaign walk inside the Santiam Correctional Institution in Salem. It was a prison suicide prevention walk.

This was the first time ever prison inmates would organize a suicide prevention walk inside the confines of a prison facility. (Video at bottom of page)

Prison Suicide Rates High Among Prisoners & COs

The high rate of prison suicides has become very worrisome among prison authorities and the states and federal governments. Hundreds of support groups carry out awareness campaigns to sensitize inmates about the dangers of suicides or self-harm.

They school them on the need to remain positive all through one’s incarceration.

Incidentally, prison suicides are not only common among inmates. Apparently, they are also fairly common among correctional officials as well. KATU reports:

“‘The suicide rate is much higher among correctional officers and police officers and it’s also much higher among the incarcerated,’ said Dan Bielenberg, an inmate work program coordinator at Santiam.”

Santiam Correctional Institution inmates held the first-ever prison suicide prevention walk to take place inside a correctional facility.

Santiam Correctional Institution inmates held the first-ever prison suicide prevention walk to take place inside a correctional facility.
Image Source: KATU News

Developing the Idea of the Prison Suicide Prevention Walk

According to Bielenberg, he was engaged in a conversation with George Skurtu, a former prison inmate, when the idea of a prison suicide prevention walk came up.

They had been talking about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). This is a non-profit organization dedicated to taking action against suicide, a leading cause of death.

Skurtu expressed his desire to provide some form of help to the AFSP whenever he got out of prison. And, Bielenberg told him:

“George, why would you wait?”

So, both men brought the idea to other inmates at Santiam Correctional Institution. And, with the help of prison staff, who also organized a fundraiser for the event, the idea took off and became a reality.

The prison suicide prevention walk did not only target inmates. Correctional officers also benefitted since they were all prone to suicides, according to the statistics.

Other Prisons Ask Santiam to Help Organize Prison Suicide Prevention Walks

Emotions were high as the date for the prison suicide prevention walk at Santiam Correctional Institution drew near. The event was held on a Saturday. All the prisoners were free to walk the grounds of the prison facility.

Some even made video recordings. They took part in video interviews and addressed prison suicides among other prison issues. KATU News reports:

“‘Everyone has a go-home date and when they go home, they’re likely to be one of our neighbors,’ said Bielenberg. ‘I think it shows them that they are a person and that they can be successful and that they can make the community a better place.'”

Video: Santiam Correctional Institution Raises Awareness for Suicide Prevention

The prison suicide prevention walk was a huge success at the Santiam Correctional Institution.

Bielenberg disclosed that other prison facilities across the US have reached out to ask for help in organizing such walks in their own correctional institutions.

Watch the video below for more information about Santiam Correctional Institution’s suicide prevention walk. It’s the first one to ever be held within the walls of a prison.

Has anyone you know ever committed suicide within a prison? Are the growing number of prison suicides a serious concern for you? What can we do as prison loved ones to help bring an end to the prison suicide epidemic?

We’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts about prison suicides in the comments section below.

Charles Omedo has a degree in Mass Communication and a PGD in Digital Communication. He worked as a newspaper/magazine reporter and editor for many years. Now, he writes daily news articles for private clients. Charles has written for US/UK/Canadian/Indian clients on various niches. He currently writes prison news for loved ones of inmates on the Prison Rideshare Network.