Monterey Herald — Saying California officials "divorced themselves from reality" when they recently claimed prison mental health care is up to par, a Sacramento judge has ordered the immediate investigation of staffing levels and patient intake practices at Salinas Valley State Prison's psychiatric unit.
Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled Thursday that due to the "urgency of the issues at hand," a federal Special Master is ordered to investigate allegations that numbers of psychiatrists and other mental health staff are at dangerously low levels in the unit, which is operated by the Department of State Hospitals.
He also ordered the Special Master to look into the prison's practice of keeping new patients on "cuff status" of shackles and isolation for up to 10 days before they can take part in regular treatment activities.
Department of State Hospitals officials told the judge during a four-day hearing last month that their agency has never been found by the court to have provided inadequate care to inmate patients — a contention that Karlton said "misses the mark."
He noted that the hospitals department has for years been part of the decades-long mental health lawsuit that brought sweeping overhauls to the California prison system, and in 2006 the court found that the department was "failing to address specific court-ordered remedies" to improve prisoners' psychiatric care.