Northumberland Co. Prison warden: Staff was quick to react to suicide victim
SUNBURY - The county prison warden said Wednesday he doesn't expect protocol to change in the wake of Sunday night's inmate suicide.
Prison staff acted quickly and properly before and after Cyrus Lewis was found unresponsive inside his cell at 9:25 p.m., according to warden Roy Johnson. Lewis hung himself and was pronounced dead at Sunbury Community Hospital.
"From everything I see on the videos, they were scrambling, they were hustling," Johnson said Wednesday about his staff's response.
The duty nurse responded and checked Lewis' vitals. A defibrillator and CPR were used in attempts to revive him until the arrival of ambulance personnel. Johnson said it's likely Lewis had died before he was found.
County Commissioner and prison board member Rick Shoch commended Sgt. Jason Greek during Wednesday's meeting for his actions at the scene, saying he performed professionally.
Neither Johnson nor representatives of the prison's contracted health care provider, PrimeCare Medical, would say if Lewis, 34, of Shamokin, had been on suicide watch at any point during his brief incarceration, citing federal privacy regulations. However, the circumstances surrounding his death indicate he was not on suicide watch at the time of his death.
The PrimeCare representatives would also not comment on any medication Lewis may have been taking.
Lewis was jailed June 9 following a foiled attempt to steal a pickup truck at a Shamokin convenience store. He was designated for routine check on Sunday, meaning an officer passed by his cell every 30 minutes. Johnson said Lewis was last observed alive lying on his side on a cot, and that 27 minutes later an officer found he had hung himself.
There are two enhanced levels of supervision - constant supervision and 15 minute checks - for inmates believed to be at risk or in withdrawal. Those inmates would be provided smocks and blankets designed to prevent hanging.
Johnson expressed sympathy for Lewis' family, saying his death was not taken lightly by prison staff. The affect isn't noticed at the scene since everyone's adrenaline is pumping, but it is observed in the days afterward, he said.
Counselors are available to both inmates and staff.
The prison's internal review is nearly complete. The county coroner and Sunbury police also investigated, the latter a result of a policy adopted in the wake of the August suicide of Andrew W. Beers, 27, of Paxinos.
PrimeCare will complete its own review within 30 days.
Johnson said there is pending litigation in Beers' death, although a lawsuit had not been filed.