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Today US District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the constitution says what common sense tells the rest of us: it is not okay to treat mentally ill prisoners barbarously; it is not okay to pepper-spray them; it is not okay to stuff them into solitary confinement cells because there is nowhere else for them; it is not okay to strip-search a mentally ill inmate just for yucks; and that putting a mentally ill person into solitary is likely to exacerbate their condition, not help them.

As the AP reports:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A federal judge ruled Thursday that California's treatment of mentally ill inmates violates constitutional safeguards against cruel and unusual punishment through excessive use of pepper spray and isolation...

The ruling came after the public release of videotapes made by prison guards showing them throwing chemical grenades and pumping large amounts of pepper spray into the cells of mentally ill inmates, some of whom are heard screaming.

"Most of the videos were horrific," Karlton wrote in his 74-page order...

Karlton ... ((ruled)) that placement of seriously mentally ill inmates in segregated housing causes serious psychological harm, including exacerbation of mental illness, inducement of psychosis, and increased risk of suicide...

He found that keeping mentally ill inmates in isolation when they have not done anything wrong violates their rights against cruel and unusual punishment...

Karlton also ruled that mentally ill inmates cannot be placed in special security housing units unless corrections officials can demonstrate that the isolation will not further harm their mental state...

Finally, Karlton ordered the state to revise its policy for strip-searching mentally ill inmates as they enter and leave housing units.

The ruling gives California sixty days to stop putting such prisoners into solitary because there isn't appropriate housing, and sixty days to work with a court-appointed special master to revise the state's policies for the use of force on these patients.

If history is any guide, Governor Jerry Brown will appeal, and appeal, and appeal, quite possibly taking the case all the way to the US Supreme Court as he did (twice!) with another, related, suit pertaining to the medical care and treatment of all California prisoners. If he does those mentally ill in prison will likely continue to be abused.

My suggestion to Judge Karlton is quite simple, if legally a bit difficult: Have Jerry Brown thrown into a cage, then have prison guards rush into his cell and pepper-spray him, dragging him off to a solitary confinement cell. Leave him there for thirty days, still covered in pepper spray. When (or if, perhaps) he comes out, I'm pretty sure he'll change his tune.

Related diaries:

Nightmares of Reality: Pepper-Spraying Mentally Ill Prisoners.

You Will Never Find A More Wretched Hive Of Scum And Villainy.

CA Gov. Brown Smacked Down (Again) By Federal Judges... And About to Face Yet Another Prison Crisis

Originally posted to jpmassar on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 10:31 PM PDT.

Also republished by Occupy Wall Street, California politics, SFKossacks, and Progressive Policy Zone.

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