Leyva Bill Addressing High Suicide Rates at State Prisons Signed by Governor

SB 960 Introduced After Troubling August 2017 Report Released by State Auditor

Thursday, September 27, 2018

SACRAMENTO – Governor Jerry Brown yesterday signed Senate Bill 960 authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) that will ensure that state prisons in California follow best practices related to suicide prevention and treatment.

In response to the unusually high numbers of suicides at state prisons, the State Auditor investigated and released an audit report in August 2017 which noted that prisons failed to monitor at-risk inmates, complete behavioral risk evaluations and treatment plans, and did not have staff complete required trainings related to suicide prevention and response. The Auditor concluded that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) did not consistently follow their established procedures and practices.

“Once SB 960 is implemented, California state prisons will be more responsive to the needs of inmates and be able to prevent suicides behind prison walls,” Senator Leyva said. “This measure will address the suicide crisis in our state prisons by making sure that inmates are able to receive proper mental health care and other services to prevent injuries and deaths. SB 960 will also help improve the state prisons’ notification system to ensure that family members and loved ones are notified when an inmate dies or is seriously injured. I appreciate Governor Brown’s signature of SB 960, as it will promote greater transparency and affirm California’s commitment to reversing the troubling high rate of suicides in state prisons.”

Specifically, SB 960 would implement the State Auditor’s recommendation to require CDCR to report annually to the Legislature on its progress in meeting goals related to properly completing suicide risk evaluations and treatment plans, ensuring staff receive appropriate training, and implementing changes resulting from a special master or internal audits. In addition, the report would include CDCR’s efforts and progress to expand their current notification system for instances of death, attempted suicide, serious injury, and serious illness. This provision was included to address numerous troubling reports from advocates and other interested groups that have detailed instances where family members received delayed or no notification at all of their loved one’s death or serious harm.

Supported by California Catholic Conference, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, California Prison Focus, California Public Defenders Association, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Fair Chance Project, National Alliance on Mental Illness / California, National Association of Social Workers / California Chapter and the Steinberg Institute, SB 960 will take effect on January 1, 2019.