California Prison Officials Rethink Use of Force on Mentally Ill Inmates

Prison Guards Would Be Required to Consider Mental-Health Status Before Using Force 

From Wall Street Journal: Under the new policies, announced Friday, prison guards would have to consider inmates’ mental-health status and ability to understand orders before using force. The use of pepper spray would also be limited, and hundreds of prisoners with mental illnesses would be removed from solitary confinement, according to attorneys representing the prisoner plaintiffs.

States throughout the country are continuing to grapple with large populations of mentally ill prisoners. In California, more than 37,000 inmates-or just under 28% of the prison population-have mental-health issues, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

California’s new policy proposal is the latest chapter in litigation between prisoners and the state over mental-health care and overcrowding, initiated in 1991, which led to a 2009 ruling by a panel of federal judges to trim the state prison population. Earlier this year, California won a delay of an order to reduce overcrowding and has until 2016 to reach the court-mandated 137.5% capacity. The prison system is now at 140.3% capacity, according to a prison system spokeswoman.


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