Report Raises Concerns About Mental Health Care in State Prisons
Ten years after U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ordered California prisons to provide better care to inmates with mental illnesses, the situation at Corcoran State Prison is "exceedingly troubled," according to a report issued to the judge in March, the Los Angeles Times reports. Karlton is presiding over an ongoing 1990 class-action lawsuit challenging the quality of mental health care in the state prison system.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has proposed spending an additional $5 million to expand mental health care staffing in California prisons to comply with Karlton's order.
After receiving the report in March, Karlton ordered a review of Corcoran employees' attitudes toward inmates with mental illnesses and monthly reports on guards' use of force against inmates. One-fourth of the 5,000 prisoners at Corcoran have mental illnesses (Morain , Los Angeles Times, 5/29).
Hundreds of inmates at Corcoran have participated in a rehabilitation program affiliated with the Church of Scientology, "a fierce opponent of psychiatry and antipsychotic drugs" that sometimes are administered to inmates with mental illnesses, the Times reports. It is unknown how the no-cost program, which is voluntary and conducted by correspondence, was introduced at the prison, according to the Times.
Mental health experts affiliated with the prison system and other entities said the presence of Criminon International, a secular unit of the Church of Scientology, "could undermine the ability" of professionals to administer psychiatric care to inmates, the Times reports.
Criminon Executive Director Nancy Pomerantz said that the group does not ask if inmates are taking antipsychotic medications, adding, "We will help anyone who wants our help." Pomerantz said that about 1,800 inmates in California prisons have received treatment through Criminon over the past decade.
Department of Corrections spokesperson Todd Slosek said, "We are currently reviewing all staff actions related to Criminon" (Morain , Los Angeles Times, 5/29).