Jodi Arias Suicide Watch: How Does Prison Suicide Watch Work?

By Philip Ross on May 9, 2013 4:06 PM EDT

jodi arias
Jodi Arias reacts as a guilty verdict is read in her first-degree murder trial in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo: Reuters)

Jodi Arias, who was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder in the slaying of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, has been placed on suicide watch.

According to CNN, authorities put Arias on suicide watch following comments she made to reporters after receiving her conviction.

Why Is Jodi Arias On Suicide Watch?

"I said years ago that I'd rather get death than life, and that still is true today," she told Phoenix television station KSAZ. "I believe death is the ultimate freedom, so I'd rather just have my freedom as soon as I can get it."

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IScience Times reported earlier that Arias initially told authorities that Alexander was killed by intruders wearing masks. Later, she admitted to killing Alexander, but said it was in self-defense and that she was a victim of domestic abuse.

She later recanted her initial account of events, and said that she had dumped the gun used to shoot Alexander and created an alibi to avoid suspicion because she was ashamed to tell the truth.

The 12-person Arizona jury didn't believe Arias' story, and they convicted her of first-degree murder, believing the murder was premeditated -- a charge that could carry the death penalty.

Just 20 minutes after she was read the guilty verdict, Arias spoke with a local Fox News affiliate about the verdict. In an exclusive 45 minute interview, she said she went completely blank after the jury convicted her.

"It was unexpected for me, yes," she told the Fox reporter. "I was fairly confident I wouldn't get the premeditation because there was no premeditation."

"That's the jury that was brought to me; that's the jury I was meant to have," she said.

"I would much rather die sooner than later," she said.

It was these comments that lead authorities to place Arias on suicide watch.

How does prison suicide watch work?

Dynamics Of Inmate Suicide Watch

According to an article in Slate, when an inmate is placed on suicide watch, he/she is put in an observation room with little more than a mattress on the floor. Its main purpose is to keep the inmate from hanging himself/herself, as this is the most common method of prison suicides. From Slate:

Rooms are designed without any protrusions from the ceiling, walls, or furniture. Window cages, sprinkler heads, and bunk handles all pose problems. Even bars set low to the ground could be dangerous-an inmate might get on his knees and strangle himself by thrusting his weight forward all at once.

Some states require that the blanket the inmate sleeps with is extra thick so that he can't tie or tear it. Sometimes, inmates are even given paper gowns to wear instead of their usual frocks. Suicide watch requires 24 hour surveillance, or jail personnel are also required to do in-person check-ins every 15 to 30 minutes.

When Prison Suicide Prevention Fails

The World Health Organization reports that suicide is the leading cause of death in jails in the U.S. and that no national standard exists for supervising inmates who show signs of hurting themselves. These suicides usually go undocumented.

Sometimes, authorities ignore signs that an inmate is at risk of suicide. In December 2011, 24-year-old Jonathan Lee Carter hanged himself in a cell in Alabama's Madison County jail. It was later found out that jail employees had failed to follow protocol by neglecting to check in on Carter, who was on suicide watch and in a cell by himself, every 15 to 30 minutes.

When the Sheriff's office released the jail's log-in records in Jan. 2012, they showed that on nine different occasions, more than 30 minutes had passed between checks on Carter on the day he hanged himself from the sprinkler system in his cell.

Two of the deputies were suspended from their duties because of the incident.

Read more from iScience Times:

Jodi Arias Guilty, Wants Death: Watch Arias Sentencing Trial Online [LIVE STREAM]

Jodi Arias Guilty Of First-Degree Murder: Will Arias Receive The Death Penalty? [POLL] [VIDEO]

Jodi Arias Trial Update: Arias Could Receive Death Sentence Within 60 Days

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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