CDCR To Limit Punishments for Inmates With Mental Health Issues
Last week, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials made changes to the agency's policy for punishing inmates with mental health issues, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.
The announcement follows a series of policy changes after a federal judge last year found that the state's treatment of inmates with mental health issues was unconstitutional (Thompson, AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/3).
In August 2014, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton gave CDCR officials a deadline to establish a plan for preventing inmates with mental health issues from being placed in isolation units. Karlton then approved a CDCR plan that aimed to ease solitary confinement restrictions for inmates with mental health issues by creating segregation units at 16 prisons that give inmates with mental health issues:
- Access to more treatment, including weekly group therapy;
- Increased contact with clinicians; and
- More time outside of their cells, increasing to 20 hours for men and 15 hours for women from the previously allowed 10 hours per week (California Healthline, 9/2/14).
Details of Policy Change
CDCR filed the new policy in federal court on Friday. The change will ensure that inmates with mental health issues who act out will receive counseling instead of being sent automatically to isolation cells or having their sentences extended.
Michael Bien, a lawyer representing inmates with mental health issues, said, "This is a very significant reform of the disciplinary process for prisoners with mental illness."
Bien added that California is one of just a few states working to reduce punishments for inmates for behavior stemming from mental health issues (AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.