In 2018, California’s chief prison psychiatrist released a scathing 161-page report on mental health care in the state’s prisons. The report indicates that state officials are misrepresenting the care received by inmates with mental disabilities and are putting the health of these inmates at risk. In the report, Dr. Michael Golden states that inmates are not receiving the psychiatric care they need.
One of the central problems the report focuses on is the lack of physicians in the prison system. Inmates may receive treatment from psychologists and other non-physicians rather than psychiatrists who are medical doctors. This means that medications are being managed and other crucial decisions about mental health care are being made by individuals without medical degrees. Shockingly, in some cases medical decisions by doctors are being overridden.
There is also a problem with accurate reporting of information to the courts and the public. For instance, the report alleges that the prisons mischaracterize the rate at which inmates are seen by psychiatrists and that fewer than 50% of inmates are seen in a timely manner. Some inmates are not receiving regular psychiatric treatment due to prison transfers. Other inmates are not receiving their treatment or doctor visits in a confidential environment, which can be a key factor in appropriate treatment. Without proper reporting of important information, the problem can’t be fixed.
The report makes serious allegations about how mentally ill inmates are treated. The report refers to a specific incident involving an inmate with psychosis who was not given her medication and ripped out her own eyeball and ate it. The inmate had been placed on suicide watch and had been screaming for hours prior to the event. The psychiatrist on call was not contacted and the inmate did not receive her medications for four hours prior to the incident.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) denies the allegations in the report and made a statement indicating that they’ve made strides to improve the treatment of inmates with mental illness in their facilities.
If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental illnesses. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.