State Boosts Oversight of Women’s Prison After Spike in Suicides
California is increasing oversight at a San Bernardino County women's prison after the facility experienced a spike in suicides and attempted suicides, the AP/Long Beach Press-Telegram reports.
In May 2014, Matthew Lopes, a federal court-appointed overseer for inmate mental health, reported that the California Institution for Women's mental health services program was the only program of six statewide that provided proper care.
However, Lindsay Hayes, a court-appointed suicide expert, in January said that the prison was "a problematic institution that exhibited numerous poor practices in the area of suicide prevention," including risk evaluations and treatment.
Spike in Suicides
Despite the facility's mental health care options, four women in the last 18 months have committed suicide at the prison and an additional 20 have attempted suicide, according to state records. All four women who committed suicide were receiving mental health care before their deaths.
According to the AP/Press-Telegram, the Institution for Women is the only women's prison in California with any suicides in the last five years. Further, the suicide rate is:
- More than five times the rate of the entire California prison system; and
- More than eight times the rate of female inmates nationwide.
According to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesperson Dana Simas, the agency reviewed the suicides when it determined there was "a spike" at the facility.
However, Simas said the agency "could not identify one single underlying issue that indicated that CDCR had any deficiencies in mental health treatment, in lapses in supervision," adding, "There were so many variables in each individual's case that it didn't point to anything specific that CDCR was doing wrong."
Still, CDCR bolstered its mental health training for prison employees. The training included extra supervision for some workers who had "performance issues," Simas noted.
In addition, the California prison system inspector general recently started sending inspectors to the prison whenever there is a suicide or attempted suicide "to pinpoint what's going on," said spokesperson Shaun Spillane (Thompson, AP/Long Beach Press-Telegram, 8/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.