Although California Governor Jerry Brown declared “the prison crisis in California is over” earlier this year, recent federal court rulings show that in reality the end of the crisis is not in sight. A New York Times article on July 14, 2013, California is facing more woes in prisons, quotes RBGG founding partner Michael Bien on the continuing problems regarding prison mental health care.
According the Times article:
“Michael Bien, a lead lawyer representing inmates in the lawsuit over mental health care that led to the Supreme Court case, pointed to recent pictures he has placed in evidence showing prisoners sleeping on floors and in crowded dormitories, similar to the conditions the Supreme Court criticized.
In one picture taken earlier this year, prisoners are shown locked in a series of single holding cells for group therapy.
At the California Institute for Men, in San Bernardino County, several prisoners were labeled LOBs — for “lack of beds” — because there was no place to properly house them, Mr. Bien said. While waiting to be processed, they spent months in cells meant for solitary confinement.
“These are mentally ill patients who were literally going crazy,” Mr. Bien said. “It’s a Kafkaesque situation, where they didn’t know why they were there or when they were going to get out.”
Bien was also interviewed by the NPR program The Takeaway on July 16, 2013. Listen to the interview here: California Prison System Sees Scrutiny for Overcrowding, Inhumane Conditions
A special three-judge federal court on June 20, 2013 ordered the State of California implement its own plan to reduce the state’s prison population from 150 percent of design capacity to 137.5 percent by the end of 2013. The court said that it found merit in plaintiffs’ motion to hold the Governor in contempt of court for not obeying previous court orders, but deferred ruling on the motion to give the state an opportunity to comply. In 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court found that prison overcrowding in California prisons constituted cruel and unusual punishment with prisoners lacking access to adequate health and mental health care.