Inmates’ Attorneys Call for Better Mental Health Services in Prisons
During a federal court hearing this week, attorneys for California inmates argued that prisoners -- especially those on death row -- do not have adequate access to mental health care services, the Sacramento Bee reports (Stanton/Walsh, Sacramento Bee, 10/16).
In June, lawyers representing California state inmates asked U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton to expand oversight of the state's prison mental health care system to include the California Department of State Hospitals. Karlton ordered an investigation of prison-based mental health care facilities managed by DSH.
Inmates' attorneys have requested that Karlton order:
- The opening of a psychiatric treatment center in Vacaville to serve inmates on death row;
- A review of death row inmates' mental health needs; and
- Revisions to state policies on the use of batons, pepper spray and other weapons on prisoners with mental illnesses (California Healthline, 10/2).
At the hearing this week, prisoners' attorneys said that inmates with mental illnesses do not receive appropriate care, even at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville where those with serious psychiatric needs are sent.
Meanwhile, physician Pablo Stewart provided several examples of inmates on death row receiving "woefully inadequate" mental health care services.
Stewart said inmates at the Vacaville facility are held in "severe isolation" without:
- Group therapy;
- Use of day rooms; or
- Access to the prison yard.
He added that inmates on death row at San Quentin State Prison "are some of the more severely psychotic patients in the state of California" and that "the level of care does not match their needs."
Attorneys for the state argued that prison mental health care has improved in recent years.
They added that "San Quentin staff has superior knowledge, experience and training concerning inmates who remain in their care for years and, perhaps, decades" (Sacramento Bee, 10/16).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.