A recent audit conducted at four California state prisons (CDCR) has caused lawmakers to call for reform. The audit revealed that inmates, especially women, are committing suicide in CDCR prisons at alarming rates.

State lawmakers requested the audit after years of rising prison suicide numbers among California’s female inmate population. Conclusions from the report found the surging prison suicide rates to be “particularly troubling.”

Protesters gathered in front of CIW in 2016 to protest isolating suicidal people, which is one of the leading causes of women committing suicide in CDCR prisons, especially CIW.

Protesters gathered in front of CIW in 2016 to protest isolating suicidal people, which is one of the leading causes of women committing suicide in CDCR prisons, especially CIW.

CDCR Inmate Suicide Statistics

The alarming number of California’s prison suicides, particularly at the California Institution for Women (CIW) in Corona, speaks to the failing California prison system. Here are just some of the “particularly troubling” stats on CDCR and women prisoners’ suicides:

  • Only 4% of the prison population in California are women
  • From 2012 to 2016, 11% of California’s prison suicides were committed by women
  • From 2013 to 2016, CIW was responsible for all but one of California’s imprisoned women suicides
  • From 2012 to now, California’s women’s prison population dropped from 6,643 to 4,743

What Leads to a Woman Committing Suicide in CDCR Prisons?

Statistics prove that the CIW in Corona is a leading cause of California’s high prison suicide rates. However, prison officials, protesters and auditors all claim different reasons for California’s prison suicide epidemic.

Officials’ Claims: Why Women Are Committing Suicide in CDCR Prisons

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officials were quick to point blame at the inmates themselves. They cited an increase of violent acts and drug use as the cause. However, the audit concluded otherwise.

CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan claimed improvements such as substance abuse treatment and treatment for mental illness were evident of the CDCR’s increased efforts to lower suicide rates. But, many inmates and their prison loved ones disagree.

In February 2014, Shadae 'Dae Dae' Schmidt had a stroke, but was still returned to isolation. She was found hanging in her isolation cell at CIW.

In February 2014, Shadae ‘Dae Dae’ Schmidt had a stroke, but was still returned to isolation. She was found hanging in her isolation cell at CIW.
Image Source: Solitary Watch

Auditor’s Claims: Why Women Are Committing Suicide in CDCR Prisons

While officials claimed to have improved suicide prevention practices, the audit found many of CDCR’s practices are still not up to standards.

Elanie Howle, a California State Auditor, claims that a shift in culture due to a CDCR decision to transfer 400 maximum security inmates to CIW in Corona is a main cause for the rising inmate suicides.

According to inmates inside CIW, the place is now overcrowded. This makes it much harder to get needed services, which is very for the women prisoners suffering from mental health issues.

Protester’s Claims: Why Women Are Committing Suicide in CDCR Prisons

Like the auditors, protesters have pointed to the failures of CDCR as the cause for high suicide rates in California state prisons.

The California Coalition for Women Prisoners has realized the neglect of inmates in the CIW in Corona for years. They have held protests in attempt to force the CIW in Corona to implement improved mental health services.

With pressure from state auditors and protester groups, there is a chance that CIW in Corona officials may actually implement changes that will lead to a safer environment for its women inmates.

The Press Enterprise reports:

“The suicide rate of (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) male inmates remained relatively static from 2012 through 2016; however, the suicide rate of its female inmates increased,” the report stated.

Read More About Prison Suicides in US Facilities

Austin Wolfe writes both professionally and creatively. He holds a BA degree in Professional Writing from York College of Pennsylvania. Mr. Wolfe currently lives in Glen Rock, PA who takes pride in being a self-proclaimed serial mumbler. trash poet. His motto? “Buy the ticket: take the ride.” Austin now writes news reports for prison loved ones on the Prison Rideshare Network.