Strauss-Kahn's suicide-watch cell tiny, isolated

18th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Under suicide watch, Dominique Strauss-Kahn wears a specially designed jumpsuit and lives in a tiny cell, monitored by a guard positioned just a few steps away, a source said Wednesday.

The 11 x 13 foot (3.3 x 3.9 meters) cell is in the West Facility of the infamous Rikers Island prison, located in Manhattan's swirling East River.

Here, Strauss-Kahn, who only a few days ago was checking into a $3,000 a night suite at the Sofitel in Times Square, is waiting until Friday to hear whether he'll be sent to trial on charges that he tried raping a chambermaid.

The International Monetary Fund chief -- and a man who until this scandal was seen as a potential next president of France -- is considered a suicide risk and has been placed on special guard.

Ordinarily, a suspect awaiting trial, considered innocent until proven guilty, is detained with numerous privileges, including the right to wear his own clothes and bring in possessions.

Not Strauss-Kahn.

A law enforcement source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the 62-year-old VIP has been placed in an area normally reserved for inmates with contagious diseases.

That's because the layout, with cells designed to isolate prisoners as much as possible, suits requirements in this extraordinarily high profile case.

So in that tiny space he has in addition to his bed a shower and toilet and table for eating.

And he is entirely alone. Or almost.

"There's no one else there except guards. In this case, there is a guard just a very few feet away," the source said.

Rather being allowed to stay in his elegant executive's attire, Strauss-Kahn has been given a grey jumpsuit specially designed to minimize risks.

"With this, there are fewer opportunities to conceal things, for example," the source said.

He also has to wear slip-on shoes -- not the fine leather kind he might have worn to conferences with world leaders, but "standard issue shoes, slip-on with a crepe rubber bottom and canvas uppers. Slip on with no laces," the source said.

Laces can be used to used to hang oneself.

The French politician, who denies all charges, is allowed to exercise one hour daily outside. He also has the run of a day room where he can watch television, including the nearly non-stop news coverage of his own case.

The source said there were even smaller cells on Rikers, a grim looking establishment with an aura rivaling the legendary, now-closed Alcatraz Island off San Francisco.

But he acknowledged that the cells in Strauss-Kahn's wing were compact.

"It's more self-contained so that if inmates have communicable diseases they can be housed in a cell that is a bit more self contained," he said.

Officials at Rikers Island would not comment on Strauss-Kahn's state of mind or whether he is on suicide watch.

A spokesman for the New York Department of Correction said all inmates are kept under "the same protocol for the safety and security."

"The protocol dictates that every inmate is assessed for risk of harm to themselves and risk of harm to others," a statement said. "All inmate health records are confidential under the law."

© 2011 AFP

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