[Pnews] Video Shows Abuse of Mentally Ill in California Prisons

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Oct 4 11:00:18 EDT 2013

    Video Shows Abuse of Mentally Ill in California Prisons

by Lisa Dawson <http://solitarywatch.com/?author=19>

Videos of California prison guards pumping pepper spray into the cells 
of prisoners – some of whom were naked and screaming, all of whom suffer 
from mental illness – and then forcibly extracting them from their cells 
were shown at trial in a federal court room in Sacramento on Tuesday.The 
trial, part of a federal case initially filed in 1991, marks the first 
day of a lawsuit brought by legal advocates contending that incarcerated 
people with mental illness are subject to brutal and inhumane treatment 
by the California prison system. The suit also alleges violations which 
include insufficient access to inpatient care for people held on 
California's death row and inadequate treatment for people held in 
solitary confinement in California's Security Housing Units (SHUs).

Reporting on the first day of hearings, the /Los Angeles Times/ 
<http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-ff-prisons-mentally-ill-20131002,0,7763239.story> describes 
the graphic footage: "For nearly an hour Tuesday, U.S. District Judge 
Lawrence Karlton's Sacramento courtroom was filled with panicked screams 
from videos showing prisoners in pain, begging for help and pleading for 
the spraying to stop, while guards shouted over and over, 'Cuff up!'"

/The Sacramento Bee 
<http://www.sacbee.com/2013/10/01/5785574/inmate-advocates-challenge-use.html>/ describes 
a particularly disturbing incident during which a man is shown playing 
with his feces in his cell while refusing to take medication from a 
visiting psychologist. The video shows a team of guards in protective 
suits wearing gas masks and helmets waiting outside his cell door:

    Almost immediately after the psychologist emerged, the team began
    pumping pepper spray through the food port of the metal cell door,
    repeatedly dousing the inmate between warnings that he better come out.

    The team opened the door, dragging the inmate out and wrestling him
    to the floor as he alternately sobbed and screamed, “Don’t do this
    to me,” “help,” and “I don’t want to be executed.”

Expert witness Eldon Vail, former director of the Washington state 
prison system, recounts the brutal tactics used by guards during a cell 
extraction. As reported by the Associated Press 

    One shows a Corcoran State Prison inmate being sprayed repeatedly in
    his cell in a mental health crisis unit last year because he refused
    to take his psychiatric medication, according to court documents.

    He "was not lucid or coherent enough" to follow guards' orders that
    he allow himself to be handcuffed as he screamed in pain from the
    pepper spray... The guards then sprayed him again at close range.

    By the time guards finally entered the cell, it was so slick with
    pepper spray that they and the inmate wound up in a pile sliding
    across the floor, according to Vail, the former director of the
    Washington state prison system.

Lawyers for the state argued that the videos were taken out of context 
and, as a result, were misleading. According to the Associated Press 

Lawyers representing the state said in opening statements that the force 
shown in the videos followed sometimes hours of clinical interventions 
and other steps to assist inmates. They said the inmates' attorneys did 
not properly review the agency's statewide policy for using force.

"There's simply no pattern of practice of excessive use of force against 
the mentally ill," said California Deputy Attorney General Patrick 
McKinney, adding that any use of force is later reviewed at several levels.

The state had objected 
to the videos should being shown in public: "Gov. Jerry Brown's 
administration unsuccessfully sought to keep the videos from being shown 
in open court. Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Karlton 
denied that request and ruled that the videos can be shown publicly."

During the hearing, experts hired by attorneys representing the 
prisoners described sweeping failures in the state's prison system, 
including psychiatric units which were understaffed, excessive use of 
pepper spray – with guards blasting sprays at prisoners for petty 
infractions – and excessive use of force by guards, described 
by one expert as "brutal" and "inhumane."

In fact, the state's own expert witness stated under oath that guards 
were far too reliant on pepper spray. The Associated Press 
<http://www.adn.com/2013/09/23/3090231/calif-mentally-inmates-blasted.html> reports:

    The state's own expert witness, Steven Martin, a corrections
    consultant with 40 years' experience as a guard, prison
    administrator and court monitor, said in sworn testimony that guards
    use pepper spray far too often and much too heavily because they
    lack training and because prison policies encourage its use...

    [Martin] said he saw more pepper spray in a single California guard
    tower "than most prisons have for their entire prison."

    "I was stunned at the arsenal they had," ...[he] said in a
    deposition. He was shocked to see that a typical guard is equipped
    with a collapsible metal baton, a can of pepper spray large enough
    to control riots and two chemical grenades.

    Most prison systems don't need that level of weaponry to control
    their inmates, he said. Moreover, he said guards routinely use
    canisters of pepper spray the size of a fire extinguisher on unarmed
    inmates when a much smaller quantity would have accomplished the
    same purpose.

*Lisa Dawson <http://solitarywatch.com/?author=19>* | October 4, 2013 at 
8:47 am | URL: http://wp.me/p2HYoj-2UE

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