[Ppnews] California Prison Conditions Driving Prisoners to Suicide

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Mar 15 11:05:40 EDT 2013

  California Prison Conditions Driving Prisoners to Suicide

March 15, 2013 By Sal Rodriguez <http://solitarywatch.com/author/sal2329/>

A court-appointed consultant, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Raymond 
Patterson, has reported 
that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) 
has failed to effectively combat the large and escalating problem of 
suicides in the California prison system. According to reporting by 
KPCC, Patterson despondently asserted that his making any 
additional recommendations would be "a further waste of time and 
effort," as recommendations over many years have gone unheeded.

The report comes as U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton is preparing a 
decision on whether or not California's mental, mental health, and 
dental care must continue to be monitored by federal courts. In August 
2012, then-CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate issued a plan to end federal 
oversight of California prison health care. "My goal is to end federal 
court oversight of medical, mental health and dental care by next year," 
Cate said 
Though Cate resigned in October, his enthusiasm for lifting federal 
court oversight has been championed 
by California Governor Jerry Brown. Brown has argued that California has 
made significant leaps in improving prison health care and addressing 

According to reporting by the /Los Angeles Times/, the March 13 report 
by Patterson and give other experts reviewed 15 of 32 suicides in 2012. 
The report notes that prisoners housed in segregation units, 
Administrative Segregation Units and Security Housing Units, have a 33 
times higher chance of suicide. According to Amnesty International 
between 2006 and 2010, there was an average of 34 suicides in the 
California prison system a year, with 42 percent occurring in 
segregation units.

According to the /LA Times/ reporting 
"13 of the 15 deaths showed some form of inadequate assessment, 
treatment or intervention." Three of the 15 prisoners had already 
undergone rigor mortis, meaning hours had gone by from the time of their 
death to the time they were found. Further, the California prison 
suicide rate of nearly 24 per 100,000 exceeds the national state prison 
average of 16 per 100,000.

The report comes weeks after news 
that the state of California had "suppressed a report from its own 
consultant warning that California's prison suicide-watch practices 
encouraged inmate deaths." In 2011, suicide prevention expert Lindsay 
Hayes found that the conditions of California's suicide watch units 
contributed to suicides. The units, described by the LA  Times as "dim, 
dirty, airless cells with unsanitized mattresses on the floor," were 
inadequately operated. In reviewing 25 suicides, Hayes found that seven 
prisoners killed themselves within hours of release from suicide watch. 
Calling the suicide watch practices "anti-therapeutic," he found that in 
17 of the suicides there were notable lapses in care, including 
infrequent checking in on prisoners and failure to conduct CPR.

Solitary Watch is aware of and has reported on five suicides in the 
California prison systems segregation units.

On September 16th, 2011, Johnny Owen Vick 
committed suicide in the Pelican Bay State Prison Administrative 
Segregation Unit. Vick's family has told Solitary Watch that he had long 
had mental health problems, and had been incarcerated for over twenty years.

Four days later, Armando Cruz 
28, committed suicide at California State Prison, Sacramento's 
Psychiatric Services Unit. Cruz, incarcerated as a 17 year old, had 
entered the prison system with a diagnosis of schizophrenia following an 
attack on a police officer. Over the course of a decade, he would spend 
years in solitary confinement largely following disruptive incidents 
seemingly instigated by his heavily documented mental health problems.

On October 24th, 2011, Alex Machado 
committed suicide in Pelican Bay State Prison's Administrative 
Segregation Unit. Validated as a gang associate in 2010, he was 
transferred to Pelican Bay. The man who was once known for his 
intelligence and helping other prisoners file legal documents gradually 
deteriorated in isolation. Hearing voices and perceiving visual 
hallucinations at times, he attempted suicide in June 2011. 
Nevertheless, he remained in isolation until the day of his death. 
Fellow prisoners on his cell told California Prison Focus that Machado 
had been screaming for help on the day of his death.

In November 2011, the San Francisco Bay View reported 
<http://sfbayview.com/2011/hunger-striker-dies-mysteriously-at-calipatria-funeral-saturday-in-oakland-family-contact-needed/> that 
Calipatria State Prison Administrative Segregation Unit prisoner Hozel 
Blanchard had been found dead in his cell. Blanchard, who had 
participated in the widespread hunger strikes protesting against 
long-term solitary confinement and demanding a litany of reforms, had 
reportedly feared for his life before his death.

In August 2012, Corcoran State Prison SHU prisoner Armando Morales 
was found hanging in his cell. A Watts, California native, Morales had 
been incarcerated since he was a teenager. He had spent at least six 
years in the SHU.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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