On Friday, August 29, 2014 California state corrections officials filed new policies in federal court in Sacramento that according to the Sacramento Bee, “will house them in specially designed units, provide greater time out of their cells and offer vastly increased treatment for ill prisoners.  The new policies, outlined in a filing Friday in federal court, dramatically alter the manner in which tens of thousands of state prison inmates are to be treated, and are designed to reduce the number of prisoner suicides and deaths.”  (See California prisons to dramatically alter treatment for mentally ill inmates, Sacramento Bee, August 29, 2014.)

According RBGG’s Michael Bien, lead counsel for the plainiffs in Coleman v. Brown as quoted in the Bee:

“’This is a tremendous breakthrough in the long struggle to bring treatment of mentally ill inmates into line with the Constitution.  There was a different atmosphere during the negotiations with corrections on these modifications. We felt we were listened to. We didn’t get everything we wanted, but there was an openness that has not been there in the past. We felt there was an acknowledgment that the old ways were not effective, and even dangerous for the inmates.’

Bien said one of the most significant elements of the new plan is the “case-by-case, length-of-stay review” of every inmate in segregation, which corrections officials agreed to even though it is not called for in U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton’s April order mandating changes.

‘We anticipate that process will show us that many seriously mentally ill prisoners who are in segregation do not need to be there,’ he said.  ‘Today could be a real milestone in the history of this litigation.'”

For more  information see:  Coleman v. Brown: Court Orders, Reports, Photos, Expert Declarations and Media Coverage.

Additonal press coverage:

Federal judge approves California plan to reduce isolation of mentally ill inmates, New York Times, August 29, 2014

California proposes isolation units for mentally ill California inmates, Los Angeles Times, August 29, 2014

California will shift mentally ill inmates into separate isolation units, offer more treatment, Associated Press, August 29, 2014