A lawsuit alleged a Ventura Youth Correctional Facility guard violated the prison’s suicide prevention policy by allowing the 16-year-old girl to cover her cell door window. She was found hanging.
The family’s lawsuit alleged that a guard violated the prison’s suicide prevention policy by allowing then-16-year-old Shanelle Crawford to cover the window in the door of her cell in May 2008, making it impossible for staff to see inside.
The extent of Crawford’s brain trauma suggested that she could have been hanging for eight to 10 minutes before guards forced their way into the cell and freed her from the noose she’d fashioned from a bedsheet, according to a neurologist hired by the family’s lawyer, Ronald Kaye.
Robert Crawford, the girl’s father, said he learned of the suicide attempt when an inmate advocacy group tracked him down in Texas a few days later. He didn’t grasp how desperate his daughter’s plight was until he reached the hospital in California and the doctor gave him a stark choice: “I could pull the plug or she would live as a vegetable for the rest of her life,” Crawford said.
Like many of the wards in Shanelle Crawford’s wing of the Ventura facility, she was profoundly troubled. She suffered from major depression, had been a victim of sexual abuse and had made a serious suicide attempt two years earlier, court records show.