A couple of years ago, Michael Bien alerted us at his keynote speech at WSC to an alarming trend: mental illness was on the rise in CA prisons even as they were getting decrowded. He and his lawyers ran the numbers lots of possible ways, and couldn’t find a comprehensive explanation.
And now, we have some distressing data about the suicide rates in CA prisons. The Chron reports:
Last year, an average of three California inmates killed themselves each month in state cells — 34 total suicides in a system with 129,000 inmates. That amounts to an annual rate of 26.3 deaths per 100,000 people, the highest rate in California since at least 2006.
That figure is higher than the national average for state prisons (20 per 100,000 in 2014) and federal prisons (14.7 in 2018, according to the Washington Post). From 2001 to 2014, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, twice as many people killed themselves in California cells than in the entire federal system, which contains more prisons and inmates. There were 448 total suicides in California prisons during that period and 222 in federal prisons.
The inmate suicide rate has now increased for four straight years in California, and it may rise again in 2019. According to the state, 16 inmates committed suicide during the first six months of this year. Michael Bien, an attorney who represents mentally ill prisoners, said he knows of 10 more inmate suicides since then, for a total of 26 so far in 2019. A state spokeswoman said she couldn’t confirm the 10 recent deaths because “some investigations are still ongoing.”
Read the article in its entirety: it exposes a disturbing pattern of neglect and cover-your-asses mentality and the futility of the ongoing Coleman litigation. What is wrong? and how can we fix it?