COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The state said Friday a prison inmate committed suicide earlier in the week, the fourth case of an Ohio prisoner killing himself in three months and the ninth inmate suicide this year.
The report comes as outside consultants brought in by the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction review inmate suicides and the agency's anti-prevention policies. Their report is due at the end of next month. The consultants were brought in following high-profile inmate deaths — including Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro.
Kimball Kenaga, 47, was found Wednesday in a closet with a vacuum cord around his neck attached to a fire sprinkler in the ceiling at Ross Correctional Institution, according to an initial prison incident report.
Kenaga was pronounced dead at a Chillicothe hospital about 3:20 p.m. Wednesday, about an hour after a guard found him in the closet. A suicide note was found in Kenaga's shirt pocket and security cameras showed him entering the closet alone, the report said. The prisons agency is investigating.
Kenaga was serving 30 years to life on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated arson, aggravated burglary and burglary out of Scioto County and burglary out of Ross County. He was in prison for the fifth time.
The consultants were brought in after high-profile inmate deaths in August and September. On Aug. 4, death row prisoner Billy Slagle hanged himself with a nylon belt and a shoestring on death row at Chillicothe Correctional Institution just three days before his scheduled execution.
A month later, Castro — arguably the state's most notorious inmate — was found hanged in his cell with a bedsheet at a prison outside Columbus. A coroner ruled Castro's death a suicide, but a prisons report has suggested he died from a technique used to achieve a sexual thrill by choking himself.
In both cases, guards have been suspended while the prison system investigates allegations that electronic logs used to record checks on inmates were falsified.
The union representing prison guards in Ohio says the state is scapegoating front-line employees and letting supervisors off the hook. It says more needs to be done to address overcrowding in the prisons and increased violence. The prison system is currently at 131 percent of capacity.
Inmate suicides are a perpetual issue in Ohio and elsewhere and tend to fluctuate. Eight inmates committed suicide last year after four did in 2011. A high of 11 inmates killed themselves in 2004 and again in 2007, according to prison agency records dating to 1995.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.
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