The myth that California is a mecca for liberalism and humanitarianism has been broken down hard by a U.S. federal judge who has blasted the treatment of prisoners alleged to be mentally ill in the not so sunny state. Al Jazeera reported on April 10, 2014, a judge has ordered California to improve treatment of mentally ill inmates. On Thursday a federal judge ruled that California's treatment of mentally ill inmates is in violation of constitutional safeguards which are meant to protect people against cruel and unusual punishment via excessive use of pepper spray and isolation.
In Sacremento U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Karlton has given the California corrections department time to issue updated policies dealing with the use of both methods but he did not ban them. This ruling came in the aftermath of the public release of videotapes which were made by prison guards showing them throwing chemical grenades and pumping large amounts of pepper spray into the cells of inmates who are alleged to be mentally ill. Some of the prisoners were heard screaming. Karlton wrote in his 74-page order, "Most of the videos were horrific."
ABC News has reported California corrections department spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said prison officials are presently reviewing the order. Judge Carlton has given the state of California 60 days to work with his court-appointed special master to work on revisions of its policy for using force against mentally ill inmates. Prison officials are promising to make changes in how much pepper spray they use and how long mentally ill inmates can be kept in isolation. However, lawyers for the inmates said those changes did not go far enough. This problem becomes even more troubling when considering that the concept of mental illness itself is not an absolute concept. As often pointed out by the Citizens Comminission on Human rights there are no biological markers for the myriad of diagnoses of the psychiatrists.
And so what if anything these the inmates may be suffering from is unclear. Nevertheless, Judge Karlton is on the right track from a humanitarian and constitutional perspective. A question which this all raises is who would treat any human beings like the inmates in the California prisons are being treated? Clearly none of this abuse is therapeutic for anyone and in fact could get anyone sick and clearly could lead to suicides. Judge Karlton should continue along these lines and open up wider investigations of how people alleged to be mentally ill are being abused in any setting, and he should than go a step further and begin questioning why these human beings, who are often treated like garbage being disposed of in a myriad of settings, have been labelled as being mentally ill in the first place.