Action needed: “Suicide Watch” amounts to Sleep Deprivation Torture at Pelican Bay State Prison

This was sent to us per email:

Immediate Action is needed.  Below is what was just sent to the PHSS Emergency Response Network.

PLEASE write an email, send a letter, and or make a phone call- or all three- about this sleep deprivation torture. It is very serious and has been going on since the night of August 2nd!

The sample letter can be changed, added to, etc.  Feel free to call (510) 426-5322 or phssreachingout@gmail.com with any questions, info, or ideas.

~ Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

Dear Emergency Response Network members,

Prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison’s SHU report the ill effects of  “welfare” or “suicide” checks occurring every thirty minutes, forty-eight times a day.  The checks are being aggressively conducted and prevent people from sleeping for over thirty minutes at a time.  Loud stomping, the slamming of doors, the striking of electronic wands against buttons installed by cell doors, and the shining of lights into prisoners’ faces are routine.  Noise reverberates throughout the concrete-and-steel pod and is basically non-stop.

As a result of the Coleman lawsuit, the CDCR was ordered by the court to conduct checks (which have been occurring at all SHUs for the better part of two years; not just Pelican Bay). However, it was left to the Department how to conduct them.

Attorneys involved in Coleman are aware of distress resulting from the checks, and have taken the problem up with the CDCR. In the meantime, we’re asking you to immediately contact Pelican Bay’s warden, Clark E. Ducart, to demand that the noise stops. Below is a sample letter/script, along with Warden Ducat’s contact information.

NOTE: If you e-mail Warden Ducart, please bcc phssreachingout@gmail.com.
This will enable us to inform the Coleman attorneys how many e-mails were sent.  Or, if you call, please send a one-line e-mail to phssreachingout@gmail.com stating, “I called Ducart.”

Contact information
Warden Clark E. Ducart
Pelican Bay State Prison 
P.O. Box 7000
Crescent City, CA 95531-7000

(707) 756–1000 ext. 9040

CDucart@cdcr.ca.gov
clark.ducart@cdcr.ca.gov
(Send email to both addresses)

Sample letter/script:

Warden Ducart:

Prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison’s SHU report the ill effects of  “welfare” or “suicide” checks occurring every thirty minutes, forty-eight times a day.  The checks are being conducted in an aggressive way and prevent people from sleeping for over thirty minutes at a time.  Loud stomping, the slamming of doors, the striking of electronic wands against buttons installed by cell doors, and the shining of lights into prisoners’ faces are routine.  Noise reverberates throughout pod and is basically non-stop.

The checks are court-ordeded, but the noise and disruption is not. Please make sure that the noise and disruption stops now.

Sleep deprivation and relentless exposure to loud noise are known methods of torture that can cause mental impairment. As John R. Martinez wrote in a letter to the secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: “Deprivation of sleep is a common form of torture and has no place in a civilized society. Sleep is a basic human need and a fundamental constitutional right and I shouldn’t have to be starving myself so I and my fellow prisoners can get some sleep.”

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]


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California suppressed consultant’s report on inmate suicides

This comes from the LA Times:

Feb. 28th, 2013
By Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times

The report warned that California’s prison suicide-watch practices encouraged inmate deaths. Gov. Brown has said the state’s prison care crisis is over.

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown has pointed to reams of documents to make the case in court and on the stump that California’s prison crisis is over, and inmates are receiving good care.

But there is at least one document the administration wanted to hide.

New court filings reveal that the state suppressed a report from its own consultant warning that California’s prison suicide-watch practices encouraged inmate deaths.

Lindsay Hayes, a national expert on suicide prevention in prisons, told corrections officials in 2011 that the state’s system of holding suicidal inmates for days in dim, dirty, airless cells with unsanitized mattresses on the floor was compounding the risk that they would take their own lives.

His report described in detail inmates being divested of their clothes and possessions and robed in a “safety smock.” Hayes concluded that such conditions encouraged prisoners to declare they were no longer suicidal just to escape the holding cells. Many of them took their own lives soon after.

The state asked Hayes to create a short version of his report that omitted his damaging findings, to give to a court monitor and lawyers for prisoners, the court documents show. Hayes complied, but when inmate attorneys obtained a complete copy, the state asked a U.S. District Court to order it destroyed. The judge refused.

The report says the state’s handling of suicidal inmates is “seemingly punitive” and “anti-therapeutic.” Hayes noted that guards, not mental health workers, dictate many of the conditions of suicide watches, such as whether to allow daily showers. Hayes alleged prison workers sometimes falsified watch logs showing how frequently those inmates were checked.
Hayes found that in 25 of the cases he reviewed, seven prisoners had killed themselves within hours or days of being released from suicide watch. He found lapses in care — lengthy delays in checking on the prisoners, failure to attempt CPR — in 68% of the cases he studied. Hayes did give the state high marks for compiling exhaustive reports after an inmate’s death.

Contract records show that corrections officials recruited Hayes, a former consultant for inmate plaintiffs, to begin in 2010 a three-year project on suicide prevention, demonstrating the state’s resolve to improve inmate mental health care.

His first report was filed in August 2011. Hayes said in a deposition that none of the follow-up reports and consultations called for in his contract occurred.

“When your report landed, it was not roundly applauded and in fact was buried,” Robert Canning, a prison official overseeing Hayes’ work, wrote in a June 2012 email to the consultant. There were 32 prison suicides in California in 2012, above the national average.

Other new filings show that the staffing shortage at one prison psychiatric hospital is so critical the psychiatric staff has declared they have been working since Jan. 23 “under protest.”

The doctors in Salinas Valley State Prison’s psychiatric program, run by the Department of State Hospitals, say they routinely juggle caseloads of up to 60 patients a day, and in some instances have been assigned wards containing as many as 120 patients a day.

Read the rest here

Louisiana Jail Holds Suicidal Prisoners in "Squirrel Cages"

Jul 8th, 2010

Suzanne Ito, ACLU

Mentally ill prisoners deserve more care and consideration while incarcerated, but time and again, the ACLU often finds the exact opposite: they’re treated even worse than the general population. Today, the ACLU of Louisiana sent a letter to the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain and Parish President Kevin Davis asking them — horrifyingly enough — to stop treating suicidal prisoners like animals.
St. Tammany Parish officials have a policy of locking suicidal prisoners in 3-by 3-foot metal cages that prison staff call “squirrel cages.” After prisoners are deemed suicidal, they’re stripped half-naked and put in the cages without a bed, blanket, shoes or toilet. Requests to use the bathroom are often ignored by guards, so prisoners urinate in milk cartons, or soil themselves inside the cage. Some prisoners reported being forced to wear bright orange, Daisy Duke-style shorts with the words “HOT STUFF” scrawled across the backside.
To add insult to injury, the cages are placed in the main part of the jail, so the caged prisoners are a spectacle for other prisoners to gawk at.
The ACLU of Louisiana’s letter (PDF) points out:

These conditions are clearly unconstitutional. According to the St. Tammany Parish Code they are also inhumane. St. Tammany Parish Code 4-121.10 states that dogs must be kept in cages at least 6′ wide x 6′ feet deep, with “sufficient space [. . .] to lie down.” Sick prisoners in your care are afforded approximately one quarter of the space required for animals under the Parish Code.

So despite Sheriff Strain’s previous assertion that prisoners “need to be caged like animals,” in Tammany Parish, suicidal prisoners aren’t even afforded the rights of a dog.

Tammany Jail is set to receive $2 million to upgrade its facilities after a prisoner escaped earlier this year. The ACLU urges the sheriff to put some of that money toward more humane treatment of mentally ill and suicidal prisoners. The letter concludes: “St. Tammany is one of the wealthiest parishes in Louisiana; not only can you afford to treat your sick better than this, but the Constitution mandates that you do so.”

Link to Article Here