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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

State mentally ill inmates hit with pepper spray

KTVUA federal judge is expected to decide this week whether the public has a right to see videos showing prison guards tossing chemical grenades and pumping pepper spray into the cells of mentally ill inmates, some of them screaming and delirious.

Gov. Jerry Brown's administration wants the videos, which were made by correctional officers, kept from public view.

Administration attorneys argue they could provide a misleading view of events and violate the privacy of both inmates and guards. If they are shown at all, the administration wants U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Karlton to view them in secret, in his own chambers.

The videos are part of a long-running legal case that has required the state to significantly improve its treatment of mentally ill inmates, although attorneys representing prisoners say the system still leads to too many suicides and inadequate care.

One shows a Corcoran State Prison inmate being sprayed repeatedly in his cell in a mental health crisis unit last year because he refused to take his psychiatric medication, according to court documents.

He "was not lucid or coherent enough" to follow guards' orders that he allow himself to be handcuffed as he screamed in pain from the pepper spray, according to a sworn declaration filed with the court by Eldon Vail, an expert witness hired by the inmates' attorneys who was allowed to view the videos and related documentation. The guards then sprayed him again at close range. continue reading...

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