Yes, California, Your Prison Conditions Are Still Unconstitutional

In 1994, a federal court found that California inmates with serious mental illness do not receive minimal, adequate care. In 2005, a federal court in a different case found that the state had failed to provide adequate basic mental care in its prisons. And in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the state’s prison health care was so deficient that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.

But California still hasn’t gotten the message. With this litigation still ongoing, a federal judge held Thursday that pepper spraying of mentally ill inmates is “horrific” and that solitary confinement of these inmates has got to stop without approval by a mental health clinician.

“[F]ailure to properly consider the mental state of class members requires the court to act,” wrote Judge Lawrence Karlton. “If defendants fail to meet their Eighth Amendment obligations, this court must enforce compliance.”

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