Cruel and Usual

California’s Kern County sheriff’s office has the state’s highest inmate suicide rate. 

To combat this, officers routinely lock inmates in suicide watch isolation. Here, they could spend hours or days in tiny booths without toilets, fountains, or a mattress. They’re given yoga mats for sleep and have very little interaction with other humans. 

The not-surprising result: More deaths by suicide. 

The state claims there’s not much it can do to intervene. The sheriff’s office claims that isolation practice helps save lives. 

“It’s completely unethical and counter to clinical evidence for what people need,” says physician Homer Venters. 


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