Suicide rates are rising among inmates in Los Angeles, and poor living conditions may be to blame, especially among the mentally ill. In just under 30 months, 15 inmates have committed suicide. A federal report called LA jails deplorable: "dimly lit, vermin-infested, noisy, unsanitary, cramped and crowded."
The United States Department of Justice’s report said there was inadequate assistance offered to mentally ill patients to prevent them from committing suicide. They reported there was also a lack of identifying those classified as mentally ill.
"We are disappointed that today's report fails to fully recognize the additional progress made over the last year-and-a-half to improve mental health services," the Sheriff's Department said in a statement. "The report also mischaracterizes and significantly understates the incredible efforts made to improve our suicide prevention practices."
Los Angeles county jails house 19, 000 inmates, and the number of mentally ill prisoners is increasing. Almost 1,000 of these men with mental health issues have not been placed in the proper settings to properly assist their special needs. "Fifteen suicides in 25 months produced almost no discernible change in the jails’ custodial practices,” the report said. “Critical incident reviews related to suicides are replete with inaccurate and incomplete information and do not identify or seek to remedy systemic problems." The Justice Department recommended Los Angeles County authorities to consider placing mentally ill inmates in community-based diversion programs.
The Sherriff’s Department said in response to the troubling news, “Every suicide and attempted suicide is of great concern to us. Both agencies are and have been fully committed to prevention efforts.
The Justice Department’s reports said 42 percent of inmates who had harmed themselves were housed in mental health facilities, neglecting the rest of the mentally ill inmate population. Mentally ill prisoners were reportedly living in extremely poor conditions. There was a lack of communication among staff, and new efforts to crack down on suicide were not implemented.
In 2010, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death for all ages, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Men commit suicide four times more than women and make up a whopping 79 percent of all suicides. Mental illness also has been known to be a major risk factor for suicide. The most common mental illness is depression, which affects more than 26 percent of the U.S. adult population. By 2020, it is expected to be the leading disability worldwide.