Tag Archives: mental health

CA: Solitary confinement case set to expand

From the article: “A federal judge Thursday said she is likely to allow a lawsuit alleging that solitary confinement conditions at Pelican Bay State Prison amount to psychological torture, to be expanded from the cases of 10 prisoners to include about 1,100 inmates now held in indefinite isolation.”

According to the article, there are 500 men who have been held in solitary confinement (defined in the article as 22.5 hour per day lockdown) for more than a decade.  Unbelievable.

Read more from the article here.

The reality is that not all solitary confinement is created equally.  Speaking from my state, some segregation units are relatively humane, with inmates who have access to adequate food, lighting, recreation opportunities, reading material, and who report few concerns.  Other segregation units (I am thinking of one in particular) are the not-so-good scenario, with inmates who are in a sensory-deprived environment, where they can only get books if they pay off a porter, recreation is limited, etc.

What makes the difference?  Well, I can tell you.  The first issue is overcrowding.  Segregation is a microcosm of prison and just as on the compound, overcrowding taxes staff resources and makes staff go into “survival mode,” where they do even less than they might have otherwise done for a population that they could handle.  This results in a negative spiral, as inmates’ issues are not addressed, so they become frustrated, so they act out, so staff react negatively, etc.

The second issue is the time that inmates are kept in segregation, which is not always (sometimes not even frequently) within the control of staff, particularly if inmates are waiting for a disciplinary transfer.  They could be back there for months, or even a year.  This results in a huge amount of frustration (understandably, in my opinion).  Staff feel helpless.  Again, a negative spiral.

The third issue is in fact the type of inmate that you’re housing, although in my opinion this is less of an issue than the above two.  The inmate is in the most secure environment, so security classification seems less of an issue.  However, it is certainly the higher security inmates who engage in the most disruption (breaking off sprinkler heads, flooding the range, creating a disturbance, etc).

So, is it always psychological torture?  I would say no when you are talking about a short term stay in an under-capacity unit with a manageable population.  But a definitive yes to the overcrowded, under-resourced segs where inmates just sit with nothing to do for months.  The only question is, what do you do with the inmates who have legitimately misbehaved in order to place themselves in the unit?

h/t Vera Institute

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OH: Director views inmate suicides as failures; new steps being taken

From the article: “Prisons officials are taking new steps to prevent suicides: using “safe cells,” disposable paper uniforms, soft food and paper eating utensils for inmates on suicide watch; spot-checking video to make sure corrections officers are making rounds; training employees to be watchful for signs that inmates might be suicidal; and reviewing mental-health assessments done when inmates enter the system. But [Director] Mohr cautioned that no amount of vigilance, precautions and staff attention will stop all inmates who are determined to take their own lives.”

Read more here.

h/t Vera Institute

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IA: Inmate commits suicide in mental health care unit

From the article: “The unit officer discovered Mabe hanging with bed sheet around his neck and tied to a wall vent. An emergency was announced and health services staff and additional security staff responded immediately. The sheet was detached and emergency protocols, including CPR, were used.”

Read more here.

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Justice Department Finds Pennsylvania State Prison’s Use of Solitary Confinement Violates Rights of Prisoners Under the Constitution and Americans with Disabilities Act

A lot of attention on the use of solitary confinement and administrative segregation…which is a good thing.

From the press release: “Today, the Justice Department issued a findings letter detailing the results of its investigation into the use of solitary confinement on prisoners with serious mental illness at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Cresson in Cambria County, Pa.  The department found that Cresson’s use of long-term and extreme forms of solitary confinement on prisoners with serious mental illness, many of whom also have intellectual disabilities, violates their rights under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).”

Read more here.

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PA: Pa. prisons could outsource mental health services

From the article: “Some Pennsylvania lawmakers are opposing a state Department of Corrections proposal to outsource mental health services at 27 state prisons in the commonwealth. Department spokeswoman Susan McNaughton told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ( ) that as many as 187 positions now filled by department employees could be contracted out to save money and improve services.”

You know, we tried to go private with our healthcare services in Ohio…we went back to state employees.

Just saying.

Read more here.

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MN: State pays $400,000 to settle inmate lawsuit

From the article: “Corrections records indicate that Scullark-Johnson was left on the floor of his cell overnight. A senior nurse, who was suspended for five days for violating nursing protocol for dealing with seizures, examined him before ending her shift. An ambulance was ordered when he continued to have seizures the next morning, but a nurse who had just come on duty turned it away. The ambulance returned when he had another seizure, but it was too late.”

Read more here.
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CA: Mental Health Facility Opens for California Inmates

From the article: “The California Men’s Colony (CMC) in San Luis Obispo will open a mental
health facility for inmates in order to address serious federal concerns
of malpractice in the California Department of Corrections and
Rehabilitation (CDCR).”

Read more here.

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This report discusses suicides in the CDCR for the first six months of 2012 and provides a state by state comparison of suicide data that is excellent.

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ACLU of Pa., others sue Pa. Dept. of Corrections over housing of mentally ill inmates

From the article: “The state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has joined the Disability Network of Pennsylvania in a lawsuit challenging what the attorneys call the unconstitutional treatment of prisoners with serious mental illnesses who are held in solitary confinement.”

Like I said in the post immediately below this one, mentally ill inmates who are disruptive are treated as high security risks and locked down.  And what happens when we lock them down?

“Prolonged isolation under these extremely harsh conditions exacerbates the symptoms of the prisoners’ mental illness, which can include refusing to leave their cells, declining medical treatment, sleeplessness, hallucinations, paranoia, covering themselves with feces, head banging, injuring themselves and prison staff, and suicide,” the complaint reads. “Frequently, these symptoms are regarded as prison rule infractions, which prison officials punish with still more time in the RHU.”

Read more here.

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