State prison officials unveiled new policies Friday that they characterized as a “sweeping culture change” aimed at limiting the use of pepper spray and other force against mentally ill inmates.
The policy changes, filed in Sacramento federal court as part of a long-running legal battle, essentially require prison guards to stop and consider alternatives to force as they get mentally ill inmates who are acting out to comply with commands.
The 69-page court filing also outlines new procedures for addressing disputes between guards and mental health professionals over how to resolve problems with mentally ill inmates.
“This is a great first step,” said inmate attorney Jeffrey Bornstein, who won his battle last year to have videos played in court of inmates being pepper-sprayed by guards. “This seems to mandate more of a collaborative approach.”
The new policy states that if there is disagreement between custody staff and mental health staffers over whether to use force, the issue must be elevated to higher-level officials on duty at a prison.
That change follows a Sacramento Bee report on the 2013 death of inmate Joseph Duran at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione after he was pepper-sprayed by guards.
Duran, who was mentally ill and breathed through a tube in his throat, was found dead Sept. 6 inside his cell seven hours after being pepper-sprayed.
The inmate had refused to let go of a food port in his cell door and was pepper-sprayed and left in his cell despite demands by medical staff that he be removed and decontaminated. Custody staff refused those demands, saying it was too dangerous to remove him, according to documents obtained by The Bee……………