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Saturday, August 17, 2013

California prison mental health investigations to continue

Herald Staff WriterA federal judge has refused to halt investigations into Salinas Valley State Prison's mental health unit and other state hospital facilities in California prisons, despite objections from Gov. Jerry Brown's administration.

An order issued Tuesday allows a federal special master to continue investigating complaints of dangerously low staffing levels at the Department of State Hospitals' mental health unit inside the prison at Soledad.

On July 11, citing the "urgency of the issues at hand," U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton had ordered special master Matthew Lopes to investigate Salinas Valley's psychiatric unit and other state hospital facilities, saying California officials had "divorced themselves from reality" when they recently claimed mental health care is up to par in state prisons.

The state filed an appeal early this month and asked the court to hurry up and consider Brown's request for a stay. But on Tuesday, Karlton ordered the investigations to continue, at least until a scheduled hearing on the matter takes place Sept.6.

Brown's request to stop the investigations came one month after Karlton ordered them, and just days after the end of a weeklong visit to the Salinas Valley unit by the special master team.

But the state's attorneys argued the team's visit took so much time and resources from the unit's staff that special master Lopes should not continue with other investigations scheduled through October at the Vacaville Psychiatric Program, Atascadero State Hospital, Coalinga State Hospital and the newly opened California Health Care Facility in Stockton. continue reading...

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