Coleman v. Brown is a class action lawsuit on behalf of all California state prisoners with serious mental illness. The case challenges inadequate mental health care systems that place prisoners at serious risk of death, injury and prolonged suffering. After a full trial in 1995, the federal court issued an injunction requiring major changes in the prison mental health system.
Over the next 12 years, the skyrocketing inmate population overwhelmed the mental health and medical care systems. In 2007, plaintiffs’ counsel moved for orders capping the state prison population. A special three-judge court issued a population cap order in 2009, which the United States Supreme Court affirmed in 2011. In 2013, the state moved to terminate all relief. After full discovery and briefing, the trial court denied the motion to terminate. The court then held new trials in 2013 on key obstacles to bringing the mental health system into compliance, including inadequate access to inpatient psychiatric care, over-reliance on segregation (solitary confinement), and inadequate protections against use-of-force. The court ordered new changes to the mental health system to address use-of-force and segregation.
Since 2015, the court has focused on bringing the case to a conclusion by fixing long-term shortages in mental health staffing, and lack of access to crisis units for persons in life-threatening mental health crises. After new evidentiary hearings in 2017, the court has issued a series of orders to address these problems. The recent orders are listed with links below:
Selected Media Coverage
Judge threatens $1,000-a-day fines over mentally ill inmates, Associated Press (AP), April 19, 2017
Judge threatens state with $1000 per day fine over treatment of mentally ill inmates, Sacramento Bee, April 19, 2017
Judge threatens to fine California prisons for delayed mental health treatment, KQED Radio, April 20, 2017