Between 2012 and 2022, 34 people have died in Wyoming county jails — the majority of them suicides. In this ongoing investigative series, WyoFile examines why people die in jail, why the public knows so little about these deaths and how they might be avoided in the future. Check out our ongoing coverage and interactive map of deaths by county below.
This reporting was supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism.
Questions remain about whether the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office took adequate precautions to prevent Dennis Green’s suicide.
Dennis Green died in the custody of the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office. The apparent holding cell suicide is under investigation by the Gillette Police Department.
The suicide rate for the state’s county jails is the fourth-highest in the country. There are no laws in place requiring sheriffs to implement suicide prevention measures, but advocates say much could be done.
Detaining people for public intoxication is a tool Torrington police use to keep people safe, but a death in the county jail raises questions about the policy and the lack of alternatives in Wyoming.
Incumbent defends keeping deaths from the public out of respect for families, but the mother of one of the deceased says this is information the community needs.
County-by-county breakdown of jail deaths
A larger fullscreen version of the map is available here.
Why did WyoFile create this map?
County detention center death rates are a starting place to understand where deaths occur and at what frequency. However, these in-custody deaths are rare events and Wyoming has a small population; thus, small fluctuations in the data could produce large swings in the death rate. To account for this, WyoFile first needed to normalize the number of deaths for each county’s population. Then we analyzed the data over a 10-year period, from 2013 to 2022. For each county, we divided the total number of deaths in detention centers during that period by the total population during that period and divided by 10 to determine the annual average rate of deaths normalized by population.
What does this map show?
The resulting number, annual average deaths per 100,000 residents from 2013 to 2022, helps us understand the differences between counties. The map above is shaded according to this death rate, and you can also view the total number of deaths in custody when you mouse over each county.
What are the big takeaways?
WyoFile’s analysis showed that Big Horn County had the highest rate of deaths in custody, with an annual average of 1.69 deaths per 100,000 residents, followed by Lincoln, Fremont, Sheridan, and Uinta counties, which all had about 1 death per 100,000 residents. Nine counties — Converse, Crook, Hot Springs, Johnson, Niobrara, Platte, Sublette, Weston and Washakie — reported no deaths in detention facilities.