California has agreed to pay $1.5 million to the family of Erika Rocha, whose prison suicide was deemed foresee- able and preventable, the Sacramento Bee reports.
“This is an acknowledgement that the system completely broke down when it came to providing the care that she needed,” said Lori Ritkin, an attorney on the federal court lawsuit.
Court records indicate that Rocha had eight suicide attempts between age 7 and 14, according to the Aug. 18 article.
“The entire leadership team of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) from the secretary all the way down to the warden of this particular prison had known for decades that her mental health especially at California Institute for Women (CIW) at Corona, Calif., was below standard, and they chose not to address it,” said Ritkin.
Erika’s troubled youth stemmed from her mother not being in the home, and her father was incarcerated. She lived with various family members and was moved into foster care due to sexual abuse by a family member.
At age 15 in 1996 she shot and wounded the woman that was running the group home where she lived.
She was sentenced to 19 years negotiated plea sentence for attempted murder. During her time in prison, she attempted suicide many times, the newspaper reported. Her suicide watch on March 31, 2016 lasted only one day, in lieu of the procedurally required five-day step-down, according to the Bee.
Prison mental health physicians diagnosed Rocha as hav- ing a number of mental health ailments including antisocial personality disorder, psychotic disorder, and major depressive disorder, according to the lawsuit.
Rocha’s behavior seemed to escalate as she was reported punching a locker. Erika also refused to take her prescribed medication and fought with her cellmate, according to the article.
“Mom on my way home when you pick me up, I want you to take me to a park, and I want you to push me in the swings and roll me in the grass”
In the opinion of Erika’s mother, she didn’t seem suicidal and was looking forward to coming home.
“When I saw Erika at one point and she was talking about coming home,” said Linda Reza, her mother. “She told me, ‘Mom on my way home when you pick me up,
I don’t care where, but just somewhere along the way I want you to take me to a park, and I want you to push me in the swings and roll me in the grass,’” said Reza.
“By doing the settlement so early in the case, before we even went through discovery and for this much money, they know they failed my sister,” said a sister, Geraldine Rocha. “It wasn’t really about the $1.5 million; that really doesn’t do anything for us mentally or emotionally.”
“The exact amount of the settlement is $1,501,500, which includes $1,500 the family wanted to pay for a swing set to be built in Las Flores Park in La Verne,” said her stepmother, Linda Reza.
They would like a message engraved on a plaque at the swing that states, “In loving honor of Erika Rocha, Nov. 7, 1980, to April 14, 2016,” ac- cording to the article.