Solitary Watch has recently confirmed that on August 28th, prisoner Armando Morales (CDCR number-P80673) committed suicide by hanging in his cell at California State Prison, Corcoran. The Kings County Coroner’s office confirmed that Mr. Morales was found unresponsive at 4:41 PM in his cell by prison staff. He was found on his cell floor with a shoelace and a blue blanket wrapped around his neck. Morales was being housed alone in his cell.
According to a pen-pal ad posted when he was 23, Morales, a Watts, California native, had been incarcerated since he was 16 years old. The post also indicates that he was being held in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) as of six years ago. His admission date at Corcoran is listed as 06/01/2000. People held in the SHU are generally housed in solitary confinement for periods of time ranging from 22 1/2 to 24 hours a day. Cells are generally no bigger than 8×10 feet.
According to the reports of Special Master to the US District Court for the Eastern District of California, between 2006 and 2010 suicides in the California prison system averaged 34 per year. Approximately 42% were committed by prisoners in the SHU or ASU (Administrative Segregation Unit).
According to California Prison Focus, Mr. Morales was being held in the 4B facility, which houses hundreds of validated gang members in solitary confinement, at the time of his death.
The Corcoran State Prison Public Information Office confirmed that Mr. Morales was being held in the Security Housing Unit at the time of his death, though no other information was made available.
In a letter to California Prison Focus, a man housed in the same unit as Morales reported that Morales was being pressured to debrief at the time of Morales’ suicide by Institutional Gang Investigators (IGIs). Debriefing is a process in which prisoners inform against their gang, and are transitioning out of the prison gang they belong to. For people in the SHU, it is one of the only ways they can be released from the SHU, aside from maxing out of their original sentence. The decision to debrief can be particularly stressful, as leaving prison gangs can result in becoming a target for retribution.
Corcoran State Prison houses 1,426 prisoners in the SHU or Protective Housing Unit, the latter of which houses people who are in the process of debriefing.
Solitary Watch will provide updates as more information becomes available. Anyone with information about Mr. Morales, particularly his family, can contact the writer at: firstname.lastname@example.org.