'She was suffering from mental illness': Sheriff says after inmate dies days after suicide attempt

Ashanti Taylor, 19, found hanging in solitary confinement Saturday

SAN ANTONIO – A 19-year-old woman who tried to commit suicide in the Bexar County Jail died Friday, less than a week after she was found hanging from a bedsheet in solitary confinement, sheriff's officials said.

Ashanti Taylor died at Downtown Baptist Hospital around 11 a.m. Friday, a Bexar County Sheriff's Office spokesman confirmed.

Taylor was booked into the jail July 6 on a charge of making a terroristic threat against family and was being held on $800 bond, meaning she likely could have been released for $80.

Police records say she had checked out of a psychiatric facility July 4.

"I believe she was suffering from mental illness, which I have said time and time again, 'The jail is not meant for people who are mentally ill,'" said Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar.

Instead, Taylor remained in jail for more than three weeks, despite telling jail officials while she was being booked that she would kill herself "first chance she got."

The Defenders this week confirmed that Taylor was hospitalized while in custody July 18 after she drank cleaning supplies at the jail.

On Thursday, University Health System spokeswoman Elizabeth Allen told the Defenders that Taylor was placed in solitary confinement against the recommendations of UHS staff members.

However, Salazar said she was placed in solitary confinement under the direction of University Health System staff members.

Salazar said his deputies perform cell checks every 30 minutes but in this case, a deputy checked on Taylor at the 27th minute Saturday and found her hanging.

Taylor had been on life support since late Saturday night until she died Friday morning.

Salazar said Taylor's actions were very disruptive and violent to the point where she was in and out of various stages of lockdown, such as full suicide precaution.

"That is a very intensive supervision area of the jail. However, several times during the process, she was cleared from FSP to go into another different kind of status, which is what we did, and every time under the direction of (University Health System) medical staff," he said.

The investigation will be handled as a custodial death, officials said.

The Bexar County Sheriff's Office has reported the death to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

The Sheriff's Office also notified the Converse Police Department about the death, which is required under the Sandra Bland Act. The law requires that an independent law enforcement agency investigate jail deaths. It also mandates county jails to divert people with mental health and substance abuse issues toward treatment and makes it easier for defendants to receive a personal bond if they have a mental illness or intellectual disability. 

Despite Taylor's suicidal tendencies, she was not on suicide watch when she was found hanging in her cell, officials confirmed.

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