On January 7, 2013 the State of California filed motions in federal court in San Francisco and Sacramento asking for an end to federal oversight of California prison health and mental health care systems and requesting that the State not be required to further reduce its inmate population. RBGG founding partner Michael Bien, who is lead counsel for prisoner plaintiffs in Coleman v. Brown, spoke out strongly against California’s latest legal move in the case that the State has lost at every level — all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bien was quoted in the Sacramento Bee on January 8:, “There’s no factual basis for saying everything has been fixed. I’m frankly disappointed because we’ve been spending decades working with the state to try and fix these problems and they’re not fixed. We’re about to enter into a war.” Full article here.
According to the Monterey Herald on January 8: “Attorney Michael Bien represents inmate Ralph Coleman, whose decades-old mental health care lawsuit helped force the federal orders to reduce the state’s prison population. Bien said medical and mental health care problems still abound. He cites a severe shortage of prison psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, despite the addition of 138 mental health crisis beds at a new facility at Salinas Valley State Prison. Bien wrote in a court filing that ‘shortages of critical mental health staff, including psychiatrists, worsened in 2012, with vacancies of psychiatrists increasing to 42 percent, and overall clinical vacancy rates increasing to 35 percent.’ He said prison suicides are also on the rise, jumping from seven in 2008 to 17 in 2011.” Full article here
The San Francisco Daily Journal also quoted Bien in a January 19, 2013 article: “There has to be a message to the state not to lose all the positive change that has been gained,” he said. “There’s a way of getting out of this and ending the receivership, but it has to be done the right way.”
On January 30, the Daily Journal published a follow-up article, “Reports show high inmate suicide rate”. According to the article, “The reports, released Friday by two federal court-appointed monitors, indicate that mental and medical health care systems in prisons, while improving, have yet to meet experts’ standards.” The article includes commentary by Bien: “The problems found by the special master were not anecdotal,” said Michael W. Bien, a partner at Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP who represents inmates challenging the adequacy of mental health services. “These are systemic problems. These are things that infect the system, which show ongoing, serious, life-threatening constitutional violations.”