Two men who committed suicide in the San Diego County jail shared a common bond: jail officials didn’t respond to repeated warnings that they were desperately ill and in danger of suicide, reports KQED. There were more than two dozen suicides in the facility between 2010 and 2015, a string of deaths that significantly exceeds the number in other counties. Statewide in 2015, one in four inmates who died in county jails took their own lives. In San Diego County, half of deaths were from inmates taking their own lives. The deaths have prompted lawsuits against the county and its Sheriff’s Department, which runs the jails, and has raised questions about whether the county is doing enough to stop seriously mentally ill inmates from harming themselves.
The San Diego County suicides calls attention to the national problem of the increasing number of mentally ill people landing in jails. In California, the problem is compounded by the massive statewide experiment transferring thousands of inmates, some of them suffering from serious psychiatric disorders, from state prisons to county jails. Many local lockups have been unprepared to deal with the arrival of often seriously afflicted prisoners. At the same time, state hospitals that might treat prisoners are overcrowded, leaving mentally ill inmates languishing in jails with inadequate treatment.