California Prison Suicides on the Rise

The suicide rate inside California prisons is one of the highest in the nation. New data now shows that the suicide rate jumped to a new high in 2018 and remained high in 2019. This is despite efforts to fix the system.

High Suicide Rate

In 2018, an average of three California prison inmates died by suicide each month in state prison. This resulted in 34 total suicides out of a total of 129,000 inmates. The annual rate of suicide is 26.3 deaths per 100,000 inmates, which is considerably higher than the national average of 20 per 100,000. This rate has increased steadily over the past four years. Given the numbers so far, 2019 is on trend to be even higher.

Problems in the System

The high suicide rate is thought to be the result of a system that fails to provide its inmates with proper care. Inmates who are seeking mental health care assistance are effectively punished by being deprived of meals and showers, and often placed in isolation. Many individuals in the prison system suffer from mental illness and don’t get the help they deserve. The system has been unable to deliver the necessary care.

A special master was appointed by a federal court to oversee changes in the system. However, there are still systemic failures. A federal court tracks California’s inmate suicides and has found troubling trends. There has been neglect and violations of prison policy that may have placed inmates in danger. Many inmates who died by suicide displayed previous signs of self-harm and suicidal intent. In addition, the bodies of suicide victims routinely go unnoticed, sometimes for several hours, despite the requirements that those on suicide prevention receive regular checks by guards.

Failures in the system also include long wait times for mental health care and a lack of psychiatrists on staff. In addition, failure to monitor inmates with suicidal tendencies and falsification of welfare check logs have also contributed to the problem. A lack of suicidal prevention training for staff and a delay in health care have also been noted as serious problems.

If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.

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