RBGG represents a class of the more than 34,000 men and women in California’s prison system with serious mental illness (Coleman v. Newsom, 2:90-cv-00520-KJM-DB (E.D. Cal., filed April 23, 1990).   On June 25, 2024, Chief U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller ordered the state to pay $112 million in fines after finding top California prison officials in civil contempt for failing to provide adequate mental health care to incarcerated persons with serious mental illness in state prisons.  The Court’s order is here.

According to the Court’s order: “Defendants cannot meet their Eighth Amendment obligations to the plaintiff class until adequate mental health staffing levels are achieved and durably maintained. This has been clear for more than thirty years, and the court until now has granted defendants wide latitude and appropriate deference in their attempts to cure this ongoing Eighth Amendment violation. Still, defendants have not complied with the court’s order of October 17, 2017, focusing enforcement proceedings. Six years have passed since the order was entered and significant mental health staffing vacancies continue. Defendants have not taken all reasonable steps they could have taken to achieve compliance with that order, the steps they have taken are not marked by the urgency required, and the ongoing violations of the court’s order are neither technical nor inadvertent. Even faced with avoiding substantial fines on a showing of compliance, defendants have not significantly moved the staffing needle.”

RBGG’s Ernest Galvan commented in a California Healthline article on June 26: “It’s very unfortunate that the state officials have allowed this situation to get so bad and to stay so bad for so long.  I hope that this order, which the judge reserved as an absolute last resort, refocuses officials’ attention where it needs to be: bringing lifesaving care into the prisons, where it’s urgently needed.”  Galvan expanded on these remarks in an on-camera interview with KCRA news in Sacramento.

RBGG’s Lisa Ells, quoted in a Daily Journal article on June 25 added, “We wish CDCR had simply taken the necessary steps to ensure that our clients have suf ficient numbers of clinicians to provide them with treatment.  But after thirty years of entrenched non-compliance, CDCR has left us and the court with no other option.  We are hopeful the fines, which will be exclusively used to support measures to increase clinical staffing, will finally provide class members with the mental health care they need and deserve.”