Denver Bowen is one of the characters in the "Excessive or Justified Force" story, and the sequence of events leading to his attempted suicide began there. The enclosed "suicide" write- up blames it on a letter from his wife. That is a half truth, as staff harassment was also to blame for his depression, of course, this will never be in a report.
The story is a little confusing because he does not explain that he feels threatened because he potentially has information questioning the veracity of the public statement made by the Sheriff's Dept. concerning the inmate recently found dead in the booking area of the jail.
On November 26, 2003, on B-1 of the Record Searchlight, it was reported a David Lee Scott, 36, was found dead in a jail cell in the booking area where he was housed alone during a routine cell check at 1:26 a.m. according to investigator Bart Langley.
Three inmates had been on suicide watch; Scott, the one found dead; Bowen; and, Harris. How did Scott get moved to booking? He should have been in a safety cell in medical. Bowen questions how this could be approved when this removal from suicide watch requires a release from Mary Barnes, the Staff Psychologist, who would not have been available until the following Monday morning. Also, when on suicide watch they must be checked every 10 minutes and a log sheet on the door signed. Bowen stated verbally that they would come much less often and sign for several time checks at one time.
The second Bowen statement came after he filed numerous grievances over several different areas of alleged jail treatment, and was taken downstairs and threatened. Apparently he has touched some sensitive areas.
Now to two statements written by Denver Bowen:
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
I am incarcerated at the Shasta County Jail and the following is a description of events that leave me in fear for my life.
On November 22, inmate Denver Bowen cut his wrist (arm actually) in an attempt to commit suicide. (See Attached Report #2003-1451.)
Inmates David Scott and Will Harris were both on suicide watch at this time, one being held in a booking cell on suicide watch and one being held in medical in a safety cell. In booking was inmate Harris, in medical was inmate Scott Bowen was then placed in the medical safety cell after staff moved inmate Scott. Deputy Clemens was on duty in medical at this time. Deputy Edmund Bennett made a statement that inmate Scott had better not cause problems in booking and another officer who's identity is unknown replied, "if he does we will go back in."
It should be noted inmate Scott had several times had altercations with staff, several of which brought about rather rough handling of inmate Scott. One such occasion having Deputy Jack McCormick dragging inmate Scott around the POD (housing unit) in C-3.
After moving inmate Scott he was left on suicide watch along with Harris and Bowen, there is no way to come off of suicide watch until seen by Mary Barnes and as this was on Saturday, November 22, 2003, she would not be in until early Monday, November 24, 2003. In fact not until after the time when staff claim to have found inmate Scott.
I know this to be true, for I am inmate Denver Bowen. After reading in the newspaper of the death of inmate Scott, I wondered why it was never stated that he was on suicide watch and although I have been waiting for some report on the autopsy, I have not yet seen one. I know there was no excitement in the medical before 3 a.m. on Monday November 24, 2003, as I was awake till then so I don't see how he could have been found at the time jail staff say he was found, as I'm sure a death would cause some excitement among medical staff. And knowing the unjust treatment this inmate had previously received at the hands of jail staff, I'm left to wonder and fear what really happened. This is a very real fear as I feel if something "underhanded" did transpire with inmate Scott, then the same could happen to any of us and, as in suddenly becoming the target of unwanted attention, which I believe is due to staff over-hearing me talking of this with anther inmate who refuses to be named, I fear something being done to me.
On 12-15-03 I returned from court and was told the LT. Wanted to speak to me, I was sent to the booking area a normally busy area that was empty as far as I could see. LT. Compomizzo took me into a holding cell and began arguing with me about complaints I have lodged. Once I saw it was getting no where, I stated I would just like my request grievance forms answered and that I did not want to talk to him no more, at which time Compomizzo got right up in my face to the point that I had to lean backwards, and stated if I disrespect his officers I will be moved back to the housing unit where I tried to kill myself on 11-22-03. I stated I'm not going to disrespect any officers, he then got closer stating if I become a problem they will deal with me. I have been in fear recently and this only increases my worry, because after LT. Compomizzo removed his face from mine, I noticed I was surrounded by officers with not a witness in sight. Furthermore, my Attorney had just told me to be careful not to piss off jail staff as I might end up getting myself beat up. If something happens I just want to be sure someone out there is aware of this.
Signed, Denver Bowen
Inmate suicides linked to solitary
The number of suicides in the nation's two largest state prison systems is ticking upward, and authorities in California and Texas are linking the increase to the rising number of inmates kept in solitary confinement.
In California, which has the largest state prison system with about 170,000 inmates, there have been 41 suicides this year, the most in at least six years and a 17% increase from 2005. Although an estimated 5% of California's inmates are housed in solitary confinement — also known as "administrative segregation" — 69% of last year's suicides occurred in units where inmates are isolated for 23 hours a day, according to state Department of Corrections records. About half the suicides this year were in such units.
In Texas' prison system, which has 169,000 inmates, there have been 24 suicides this year, up from 22 in 2005. Most of the inmates who killed themselves were in some form of solitary confinement, says John Moriarty, inspector general for the prison system.
Texas prisons also are reporting a 17% increase in attempted suicides: 652 so far this year, compared with 559 in 2005. The number of attempted suicides this year is the most in nearly a decade, according to state prison records. Statistics on attempted suicides in California prisons were not immediately available.
The figures from California and Texas are fueling a debate over whether solitary confinement is the best way to control or punish violent or dangerous inmates, particularly those who are mentally ill.
More than 70,000 of the 1.5 million inmates in state and federal prisons are kept in isolation, a reflection of get-tough policies designed to separate rival gang members and those who have gotten into fights while behind bars.
Isolated inmates typically have significant restrictions on visitors and get little help in dealing with the psychological problems that can be caused by isolation. They usually are allowed out of their cells for no more than an hour a day to exercise alone; their exposure to TV and reading material also is limited.
"Are we housing the mentally ill in prison facilities?" Moriarty asks. "I think the answer is yes. But I don't know if that's the best place for them to be."
Moriarty, whose office investigates every inmate death in Texas, says stress from isolation and increasing numbers of inmates with long sentences have contributed to the rise in suicides. "Length of sentence is a big factor. There is despair about not getting out."
The increase in inmate suicides in California has triggered recent changes in segregation units. In October, guards began checking inmates housed in solitary confinement every 30 minutes, rather than every hour, says Shama Chaiken, the state prison system's chief psychologist for mental health policy.
Some segregation cells also will be modified to remove shelving, vent openings and other features that offenders could use in hangings, the most common form of suicide in California prisons, Chaiken says. This month, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a $1 billion plan that includes 10,000 new beds in prison medical and mental health units.
A few jurisdictions have credited expanded mental health programs with reducing prisoner suicides. After Kentucky set up a mental health program for those in the state's 83 county jails in 2004, suicides in the jails fell 47%, according to The (Louisville) Courier-Journal.
There have been 13 suicides this year in the 188,000-inmate federal
prison system, the same total as in 2005. Florida, the third-largest state
system with 90,000 inmates, has had nine prison suicides this year; it
had eight last year.