Report: Mental Health Care in California Prisons Is Inadequate
California is failing to provide adequate mental health care to state prisoners, according to a report filed Friday by a federal court official, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/31).
About 30% of the state's 133,000 adult inmates have a mental illness.
In 2006, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson ruled that federal oversight of the prison system was needed after determining that an average of one inmate per week died as a result of medical malpractice or neglect.
In June 2013, 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 (California Healthline, 4/11).
Karlton last year ordered a report on prison health care after he ruled that state officials were not providing inmates with care that met standards required by law.
Details of Report
On Friday, Special Master Matthew Lopes filed a report that examined six facilities: two state psychiatric hospitals and four psychiatric hospitals run within state prisons.
The report found that:
- Some inmate patients were given medications instead of counseling;
- Some inmate patients were returned to prison too soon;
- Inmates rarely received one-on-one counseling (AP/Sacramento Bee); and
- There were staffing shortages (St. John, Los Angeles Times, 5/30).
Lopes concluded that the mental health care provided to prisoners was "more rote than truly responsive."
Lopes said that the psychiatric facilities examined in the report should develop "a consistent, more therapeutically oriented and less punitively oriented system."
Further, Lopes said that all six treatment centers were attempting to make improvements, but he recommended that the state continue to monitor four of the facilities (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/31).
However, he noted that one of the facilities -- the California Institution for Women -- was meeting patients' mental health needs.
In an email, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesperson Deborah Hoffman said the agency was "encouraged" by the report, adding, "[W]e are committed to continuing to improve care for mentally ill inmates in our institutions" (Los Angeles Times, 5/30).
Sutter County Efforts To Improve Prisoner Care
In related news, Sutter County has paid more than $1.6 million in settlements related to the deaths of two inmates who received inadequate medical treatment while incarcerated, the Sacramento Bee reports.
County officials also agreed to boost medical and mental health services offered to prisoners.
The plan to improve care includes:
- Increasing the health care workforce in county jails; and
- Boosting training for jail staff.