Judge Raises Salaries of Prison Mental Health Workers
A federal judge in Sacramento yesterday bypassed state law and ordered raises for mental health workers in California state prisons, the Bakersfield Californian reports. The raises will cost state taxpayers $56 million annually, according to the Department of Finance (Thompson, Bakersfield Californian, 12/20).
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton, who issued the ruling, is the presiding judge in a 10-year lawsuit filed by inmate rights lawyers charging the state with failing to provide sufficient care to inmates with mental illnesses (California Healthline, 12/13).
The ruling followed a recommendation by Michael Keating, a court-appointed receiver in the case. The overcrowded prison population has resulted in a caseload for mental health professionals that is 15% above capacity, he said.
Keating said that the increased wages will help fill vacancies, including 40% of psychiatrist positions and 25% of psychologist and psychiatric social worker positions.
The new salary grades will apply to 19 classes of state employees and take effect next year, according to the Californian (Bakersfield Californian, 12/20).