State Must Hire More Prison Mental Health Workers
A federal judge's order that the state hire more than 550 new prison mental health workers "could have repercussions throughout the state" as filling the positions "could send the salaries of mental health care workers soaring," the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
In an order issued on Friday, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton directed the state to hire 552 staff members -- including certified psychiatrists, therapists, nurses and clerks. Earlier this year, the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) agreed to create an additional 200 mental health positions at state prisons and spend more than $600 million to build new facilities.
The new staff could cost the state more than $30 million annually.
Michael Bien, the attorney who represented inmates in the original lawsuit that alleged inadequate mental health treatment at prisons, said the state likely will have to increase the pay of prison mental health workers to fill the vacancies. Those wage increases in turn could force other departments, such as the Department of Mental Health, to increase wages to also attract staff (Sterngold, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/1).
The Schwarzenegger administration and Legislature will discuss increasing staff during a special legislative session beginning next week to discuss prison reforms (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 8/1).
Corrections department spokesperson Elaine Jennings said the department will work with finance officials and lawmakers to secure funding for additional staff (Thompson, AP/Contra Costa Times, 8/1).
Bien said he will seek a court order to release inmates the state cannot care for unless the positions are filled quickly (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/1).