Report: Too soon for Calif. to control inmate care

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 18, 2013 at 8:42 pm •  Published: January 18, 2013

She said the department disputes the special master's finding that there are delays in providing mental health treatment to any inmate who needs it.

"We take suicides very seriously and have one of the most robust suicide prevention programs in the nation," she said in an email. "California's prison suicide rate is half that of local jails, lower than many other state prison systems, and in fact, lower than the suicide rate of adult males outside of prison."

Michael Bien, the lead attorney representing the welfare of mentally ill inmates, said the special master's filing shows that the federal judges should reject Brown's motion to end federal oversight.

"These problems are serious, they're well known to the defendants, the solution is well known, what they need to do is well known, and they've failed to do it," he said. "That is a constitutional violation. ... Years and years later, the problems exist and people are dying unnecessarily."

That means the federal courts should also reject Brown's motion to lift the inmate population cap, Bien said. Karlton and two federal judges had ruled in 2009 that reducing crowding was the only way to improve unconstitutionally poor treatment of physically and mentally ill inmates, a decision upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011.

The state said in a court filing earlier this week that it had missed December's court-ordered benchmark for reducing the population, and will miss the final deadline in June despite sending thousands of less-serious offenders to local jails instead of state prisons under a 14-month-old state law.

The state is supposed to reduce the population of its 33 adult prisons to a total of 110,000 inmates by June, but is on track to exceed that limit by about 10,000 inmates.

Brown argued that the state already has brought conditions up to constitutional standards and should not be forced to further reduce the inmate population.