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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Lawsuit alleges brutal treatment of mentally ill inmates in California prisons

SacbeeOne therapy session for mentally ill inmates took place with each of them shackled at the arms and ankles, standing inside metal cages the size of phone booths.

Another consisted of showing the prisoners movies that had nothing to do with mental health treatment, including one that focused on reggae music.

A third was scheduled to offer treatment to nine inmates; none showed up.

These were examples of prisoner conditions cited Wednesday as part of a landmark effort by legal advocates to force the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to revise its policies regarding treatment of thousands of mentally ill inmates.

On the second day of a hearing on the issue in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, experts hired by the inmates’ attorneys described what they said are widespread shortcomings inside California prisons: understaffed psychiatric units; blasts of pepper spray directed at inmates for sometimes minor violations; and a reliance on tactics that one expert described as “quite brutal” and “inhuman.”

The attorneys also played a video Wednesday of a prisoner, dubbed “inmate E,” being forcibly extracted from his cell at San Quentin. After he refused orders to come out, guards shot pepper spray through the food port. Again he balked, and they tossed a pepper spray grenade inside that enveloped the cell in a cloud.

The inmate remained seated on his bunk, and a second and then a third grenade came flying into the cell. That was followed by another blast of pepper spray from a canister. When the inmate crawled across the floor to clean himself off in the toilet, he was sprayed again. Finally, a team of guards rushed in, handcuffed him and led him away. continue reading...

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