This week, a federal court released horrific videos of prison officials using pepper spray and force to subdue mentally ill prisoners. The footage – released upon District Judge Lawrence Karlton’s order – was used as evidence in the lawsuit to eliminate the use of pepper spray on prisoners with mental illness in California.
The case has shed light on several challenges posed to inmates with mental illness, as well as prison employees. In many cases, the prisoners experience pain but cannot comprehend why forceful measures are used against them. According to an ACLU representative, prisons often prevent inmates from seeking out-of-house treatment, in order to minimize costs to the facility. On the other hand, employees are uninformed about mental illness and how to administer sufficient care.
While the rule is still in the process of being written, state regulations are set to change. Though the use of pepper spray won’t be banned, officers will have to limit the amount used on inmates, and wait longer periods of time before resorting to the measure.
Currently, one third of California’s inmates suffer from mental health problems, and Governor Brown (D) revealed that the state is projected to spend $2 billion on medical services, including mental health care.