Mental Health Plan for Prisons Elicits Backlash
A proposal released earlier this month by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that seeks to improve services for prison inmates with mental illnesses has been denounced by a federal court monitor, the Sacramento Bee reports (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 2/20).
The proposal asks U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Karlton to approve building mental health facilities at seven state prisons (California Healthline, 2/2). The four-year plan would add an additional 2,200 mental health beds and shift oversight of inmate psychiatric care from the Department of Mental Health to the corrections agency.
Special Master Michael Keating, a court-appointed monitor, in a Feb. 7 report to Karlton said the "plan simply does not provide enough information to justify the court's approval of the two major proposed underlying changes," referring to the shift in oversight and the expansion effort.
Keating said the "proposed divorce" of the state prison system and the mental health department contains "possible advantages and grave danger" because corrections officials have "no track record of providing inpatient mental health treatment." Keating also criticized the report for its lack of detail on construction of the new mental health units.
Terry Thornton, a spokesperson for the corrections agency, said it is in the process of drafting a response to Keating's report.
Nathan Barankin, a spokesperson for the attorney general's office, said state attorneys will file a response by Friday.
Keating asked that Karlton within 30 days hold a hearing on the state's proposal (Sacramento Bee, 2/20).