Here's the Sacramento Bee's mid-day piece on this morning's Brown v. Coleman evidentiary hearing. The hearing continued this afternoon and starts up again tomorrow at 9:15 a.m.
Attorneys for thousands of mentally ill inmates in California prisons asked a federal judge today to stop the state from what they described as egregious tactics using massive amounts of pepper spray, batons and other force they likened to torture.
In a high-stakes bid to dramatically alter how mentally ill inmates are treated, the attorneys asked that U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton order the opening of a psychiatric facility at San Quentin’s Death Row for condemned inmates who currently have little access to acute mental health care.
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At issue in the hearing that began this morning is how inmates with mental illness – advocates estimate that 30 percent of the state’s 133,000 adult inmates suffer from such illness – are treated inside the state’s 34 adult prisons. Inmate advocates contend that the first response to even relatively minor instances of perceived misconduct is the use of force by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The attorneys say they will present evidence – including 17 videos provided them by CDCR – showing use of force against inmates in their cells that includes the use of massive quantities of pepper spray. Inmates can be subjected to such force for rules violations, refusal to take medication, acting out or other incidents, the attorneys contend. Offenders then are written up for rules violations that can result in hundreds of days of good-behavior credit being revoked, prolonging their incarceration.
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Karlton agreed to allow the videos to be played in open court but ordered that copies not be released to the media. He also ordered that any names of inmates or prison guards that are contained in the videos be stricken from the record, rejecting a bid by an attorney from the Los Angeles Times to allow publication of names presented in court, inadvertently or otherwise.
“I do not believe that the Times or anyone else has the right to use those names, and I’ll see you in contempt,” the judge said.
The inmate attorneys say the videos are a major component of their case and will show indiscriminate use of force to subdue or move inmates. They told Karlton they planned to show as many of the 17 as he will allow.
“These are graphic videos we are going to show that will demonstrate the abuse of force against mentally ill individuals,” Bornstein said.