Need To Find Another Way

One out of three inmates in California prisons is deemed to have some form of mental illness. Prison guards have been using pepper spray when prisoners do not obey what they are asked to do, regardless of whether or not they are able to understand the requests. Now a federal scrutiny into the use of force ordered the California department of corrections to make public 122 tapes of such incidents which had been sealed. There has been at least one death attributed to pepper spray, and one of the tapes involves a naked person being sprayed for about half an hour sometimes at close range—perhaps an extreme example, but nevertheless a documented occurrence. As a result of U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton’s order, the department is working on new rules to curb allowing the use force to subdue mentally ill prisoners. The new rules have not been released but department of correction officials hope they will be in place by the end of the year. New rules for mentally ill inmates are obviously essential, but they are not enough. What is needed is a total rethinking of what to do with those who are mentally ill and end up in prison.