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California prisoner suicide rate on the rise, challenge pending over staff training

[JURIST] According to records released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation [official website], 44 convicts out of a total California prison population of 164,000 committed suicide during 2005, an increase from 26 in 2004 and 36 in 2003, the previous record. Attorneys have confirmed only 41 of the suicides reported; using this number, California's inmate suicide rate is 27 per 100,000 inmates, almost double the national average of 14 per 100,000 inmates, according to federal Bureau of Justice Statistics [official website; PDF report]. Class action lawyers have filed a suit against the state on behalf of over 26,000 mentally ill inmates, alleging that the state has failed to effectively train guards in providing emergency resuscitation, though officials claim that the vast majority of suicides are prevented before they occur. Lawyers for the class action plaintiffs are scheduled to appear in front of a Sacramento federal judge on Thursday. Seventy percent of California's prisoner suicides occur in disciplinary isolation units, which reported a rate of 248 suicides per 100,000 inmates during 2004. Read the Sacramento Bee special report on the issue. AP has more.

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