Friday, May 25, 2012

Santa Barbara Civil Grand Jury finds problems with how jail staff handled 2011 suicide


The Santa Barbara Civil Grand Jury found that jail staff could have done a better job to prevent the suicide of a 29-year-old man who died in 2011, in a report released on Thursday.

The inmate was found in his bunk with a plastic bag over his head, with his left foot on the floor and his arm hanging over the bed. He was lying on his back facing the front of the cell and his head behind an alcove wall.

Although jail staff checked on the inmate, who was in an isolation cell throughout the day, the civil grand jury determined that staff did not do enough to make sure the man was breathing or that they could see his head to even make that determination.

When the deputy noticed that the man had a clear plastic bag over his head he quickly entered the cell. Staff hands out meals in plastic bags and the bags are also distributed for trash pickup.

A deputy also found a piece of vinyl fabric wrapped around the dead man’s mouth and tied together at the back of his head.

The inmate apparently tore the cloth from his mattress.

The grand jury determined that there was no accountability for who is given a trash bag and how it is picked up.

Video cameras in the hallways also were not filming the day of the man’s death so the grand jury could not see if deputies attempted to communicate with the man before he died.

The grand jury recommended that the jail do a better job to track the distribution of plastic bags; that there be an attempt to immediately wake an inmate if a deputy cannot tell if he is breathing; that inmates’ heads are always in plain view and not hidden behind walls; that the jail include 24/7 video monitoring; and that mental health staff review inmates’ history and background to determine if there is a need for a suicide intervention.

From 2009 through 2011 14 people had attempted suicide. The only death was in July of 2011.

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