San Diego County instituted new policies and protocols this year in an effort to reduce such deaths, after six last year, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. The effort is partly to better care for inmates, and partly to save taxpayers from multi-million-dollar legal settlements that have resulted from jail deaths. The protocols seemed to pay off for the first half of 2015, but a rash of suicides in the fall have brought the total for 2015 to five so far this year. That number is significant in comparison to the other five largest jail systems in California. San Bernardino has had three jail suicides. Los Angeles and Santa Clara have had one each. And Orange and Sacramento counties have had none.
Los Angeles County, with three times the jail population of San Diego, came to its single jail suicide this year after experiencing 10 in 2013. The drop in L.A. jail suicides is the result of a federal investigation and a later agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice regarding treatment of mentally ill inmates, including suicide prevention. In September, L.A. County agreed to pay $1.6 million to the family of 21-year-old Austin Losorelli, a suicidal inmate who was transferred to a single-person cell where he hung himself. “This is costly for counties,” said Peter Eliasberg of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “Where there's these warning signs and basic protective steps aren't taken, counties can get slammed.”