‘When someone dies by suicide in a system’s highest level of care, there is enormous cause for concern,’ says an attorney from Disability Rights California

On 18 March, Maria Palacios Escalera got a call from a doctor at the UC San Diego hospital in southern California. Her son, Ivan Ortiz, an inmate at San Diego’s Central jail, had tried to kill himself, he said. Doctors had been able to revive him, but he had a weak pulse and his brain had been deprived of oxygen. She should make her way over to the hospital as soon as possible.

Escalera and her daughter Priscilla rushed to the hospital, but when they got there, a deputy with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department told them they’d need to get a permit to see Ivan – visitors must obtain a permit from the jail’s watch commander to visit an inmate who’s been hospitalized, even if the inmate is “in grave condition”, department policy says.

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