Pedro Ornelas III (Full Name: Pedro Junior Ornelas III) Died In Cell At San Diego Central Jail

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA (July 16, 2023) – An inmate identified as Pedro Ornelas III has tragically died after officials found him unresponsive at the San Diego Central Jail.

San Diego County officials are saying that the inmate was first arrested on June 16 by the CHP. Correctional officers noticed that Pedro Ornelas III was unresponsive in his cell.

He was taken to the UCSD Medical Center in order to receive treatment. Despite life-saving measures, Pedro Ornelas III was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

An autopsy later revealed that the inmate hanged himself. A full investigation remains ongoing at this time.

If you or someone that you love are dealing with suicidal thoughts, there is help available. You can call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline 24/7 by dialing 988.


Liability For San Diego County In Custody Suicides

Jails are supposed to be places of healing and restoration. But far too often they are wear people go to be mistreated and neglected. It is therefore not surprising that suicides are particularly common in jails. According to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “suicides were the leading cause of jail deaths between 2000 and 2019, totaling 6,217 — 30 percent of all deaths in local jails. In 2019, the suicide rate in jails was over two times that of the general public.” There are a number of steps that jails should take in order to prevent inmates suicide.

  • Jails should have a well thought out suicide prevention program.
  • Jails should have adequate mental health resources and staff.
  • Jails can incorporate biophilic design concepts that allow for natural light, artwork, reduce noise and provide inmates with a creative outlet.
  • Jails should do their best to treat inmates with love, dignity decency and respect. According to Dr. Lisa Boesky, a suicide expert in jails, “The best suicide prevention is making life livable.”

All inmates have a constitutional right to receive reasonably adequate healthcare. This includes mental health care. According to the Prison Policy Institute, a large portion of people who enter jail come with some form of trauma. This could be physical, sexual or psychological trauma. One study in 2014 found that 30% to 60% of the men in state prisons had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When a jail is deliberately indifferent to the serious risk an inmate will commit suicide, this could form the basis of a constitutional claim.

Consider, for example, the Estate of Michael Lee v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Mr. Lee entered the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He had an extensive history of mental illness as well as suicide attempts. Despite this, he was denied access to reasonably adequate mental health care and later died in-custody after a suicide attempt. There are a number of ways that jails or prisons may have failed to properly protect inmates at risk of suicide.

  • A jail may have failed to protect, treat or identify mentally ill inmates.
  • A jail may have been understaffed or have had untrained officers.
  • A jail may have failed to properly monitor inmates at high risk of suicide.
  • A jail may have failed to give inmates necessary medications.
  • A jail may have failed to provide psychiatric exams on high risk inmates.

Jails are not supposed to be places of misery and despair. But far too often this is what they become because of institutional indifference. However, inmates have constitutional rights and those rights must be protected. The family of any inmate that died in custody by suicide may have legal recourse through a constitutional claim. A civil claim can help hold jails accountable when they fail to give inmates the care and support that are needed.


Investigating San Diego County In Custody Suicides

We at the Sehat Law Firm extend our deepest condolences to the family of Pedro Ornelas III. Any person that may  have more information about what happened should reach out to investigators. It is our sincere hope that measures are taken to prevent other tragedies like this. Every inmate deserves to be treated with decency, dignity and love no matter what they are accused of.

Do you need more information about a San Diego County in custody death? Our team of civil rights advocates are here to answer any questions that you may have. We care deeply that inmates and their families are aware of their rights and that jails are upholding the constitution. Whether you just have legal questions or need a free, independent investigation into an in-custody death we are here for you. We may be able to get you the answers that you are looking for. You can reach out to us anytime at (949) 825-5200.


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