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Grand Jury Criticizes San Diego Jail Suicide-Prevention Efforts

The door of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department in Kearny Mesa, Dec. 31...

Photo by Tarryn Mento

Above: The door of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department in Kearny Mesa, Dec. 31, 2014.

Grand Jury Criticizes San Diego Jail Suicide Prevention Efforts

GUEST:

Kelly Davis, journalist

Transcript

San Diego County jails lack a clear policy statement on suicide prevention, despite having the highest suicide rate among large California counties, the San Diego County grand jury said in a report released Thursday.

The grand jury's report, the first to focus on jail suicides since at least 2011, found a San Diego County Sheriff's Department policy manual was recently updated with procedures for new safety cells for inmates believed to be at risk for suicide. But there wasn't any detailed training for correctional officers on how to effectively reduce suicides or a larger written policy statement from the Sheriff's Department. The grand jury concluded that a top-level suicide prevention plan is needed to focus jail staff on potential warnings for suicide.

There have not been any suicides in San Diego jails so far this year.

During an inspection at a jail facility, the grand jury asked a correctional officer if there had been any recent suicides in that jail.

"The answer was no, then a pause, and then 'No, there have been no suicides in this facility. You are not allowed to die in this facility,'" the report said. "This was the only time the Grand Jury heard a correctional officer with the attitude that suicides are not acceptable in jail."

The Sheriff's Department said it would formally respond to the report within 90 days.

"The Sheriff's Department, along with the Grand Jury, believes that one suicide in a detention facility is too many," spokesman Ryan Keim said. "The Department has worked tirelessly to improve our ability to identify individuals susceptible to suicide and provide them the necessary mental health services. The Department has also partnered with the County of San Diego to improve mental health resources outside of jail that will hopefully prevent many individuals with mental health issues from re-entering a detention facility once they are released."

Reporter Kelly Davis, who has covered San Diego's jail suicide rate, joined KPBS Midday Edition on Monday with more on the importance of the grand jury's report.

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