Legislation is working its way through the California Legislature that would require prisons to promptly notify family or contact persons when an inmate dies, attempts suicide, or is seriously ill or injured.
The measure, SB 960, would ensure that prison officials notify family members and loved ones within 24 hours, reported East County Today.
“While in custody, inmates must receive the mental health and other services they need to keep them safe and healthy,” said the author, Sen. Connie M. Leyva, D-Chino.
The Senate Public Safety Committee approved SB 960 in April.
“It is disturbing that, for years, California prison suicide rates have been higher than those across the country. California prisons must clearly take affirmative steps to make sure that inmates receive the care and services they need to prevent injuries and deaths — and particularly suicide,” stated Leyva.
“64% of California’s jail population is awaiting trial or sentencing as of December 2016.” Most remain in pretrial custody because they cannot afford bail. Jail Profile Survey, http://www.bscc.ca.gov/
In 2017, the California State Auditor observed several state prisons’ shortcomings related to suicide response and prevention, the article stated. The auditor’s results showed that some state prisons have failed to monitor at-risk inmates, complete behavioral risk evaluations and treatment plans, and did not have staff complete required training related to suicide prevention and response.
The audit pointed out that, from 2005 through 2013, the average suicide rate in California prisons (22 per 100,000) was considerably higher than the average rate of 15.66 per 100,000 in U.S. state prisons.
A state audit released last year revealed that state prisons did not properly implement policy and procedures, according to the article. This factor may have added to the recent rise in female inmate suicides.
In 2012, women accounted for 5 percent of state prisons’ inmate population and 4 percent of its suicides. From 2014 to 2016, they made up four percent of the inmate population but accounted for 11 percent of suicides, the article reported.