We’ve been remiss in reporting the major development in the Coleman case – the counterpart to Plata that addressed the deficiencies in the mental health system. To Governor Brown’s dismay, Judge Lawrence Karlton has decided that the mental health system has not improved nearly enough to end the special master supervision. The L.A. Times reports:

Karlton found that “ongoing constitutional violations remain,” including failure to act on suicide-prevention methods recommended by the court’s special master and one of the state’s own experts. What gains California has made in reducing waiting lists for seriously ill inmates to receive psychiatric care “are new, and work remains,” he said. 

The judge found climbing suicide rates, shortages of mental health crisis beds and mental health workers, in addition to inadequate treatment space, despite years of planning, amounting to what he termed “deliberate indifference.” 

Court records show that Brown’s surprise Jan. 7 motion to end federal oversight had been in the works since at least late 2011. The motion triggered a 90-day deadline for a ruling, leaving inmate lawyers roughly 10 weeks to hire experts, tour prisons and build their opposing case and giving Karlton a matter of days to weigh thousands of pages of contradictory depositions.

We saw some of the images captured by the parties during Michael Bien’s talk at our recent conference.  The use of cages for everything, including group therapy, and the horrific condition of cells for people on suicide watch, stood out for me.

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