| USWorld

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

California prisons alter treatment of mentally ill

Email Newsletters

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

By The Associated Press
Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 5:42 p.m.

SACRAMENTO — California prison officials on Friday pledged to take a gentler approach with mentally ill inmates.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a federal court filing that it intends to change a systemwide protocol for restraining and isolating of 33,000 mentally ill offenders.

Several months ago, graphic images of prisoners being repeatedly doused with pepper spray in their cells were made public. Some of the mentally ill inmates were screaming and delirious.

The images spurred U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton to rule in April that California's treatment of such inmates violates their constitutional safeguards against cruel and unusual punishment.

Guards said they took the actions because the inmates refused to take their medications, would not leave their cells or defied orders in other ways.

The state now requires guards to consider the mental health condition of each inmate before using force and to employ the least amount of force necessary while seeking alternatives when there is no imminent threat of harm.

That generally requires guards to have a cool-down period before using force — time in which a mental health professional will try to intervene with the inmate.

Pepper spray cannot be used at all in many specialized mental health facilities within the prisons without the permission of a senior prison official.

Instead of physically dragging a combative inmate from a cell, guards will be allowed to enter the cell just long enough to administer the inmate's medication before withdrawing.

Attorneys representing inmates were cautiously optimistic, said Michael Bien, whose firm sued the state over its treatment of mentally ill inmates.

“It is going to be a culture change, a sea change, if they can actually do it,” he said.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. Obama: No credible intelligence about terror plot against US
  2. Video of white Chicago patrolman fatally firing on fleeing black youth sparks demonstrations
  3. Self-driving vehicles closer to getting green light as feds ease stance
  4. House Republicans call for refugee limits in spending bill
  5. Foreign policy expert: Obama administration should create Syria safe areas
  6. 4 dead in Fort Hood chopper crash
  7. Scandals leave Oklahomans in dark
  8. Email address gives FBI lead on record theft of user IDs, passwords
  9. Obama pledges support for France against ISIS, wary of role for Russia
  10. Poll: 4 in 10 know someone who has been addicted to prescription painkillers
  11. Healthy diet plan might not work for all, Israeli study reveals