Attorneys accuse CA prison officials of censoring report on inmate suicides

Julie Small (KPCC) | February 28, 2013

Attorneys for California inmates have accused state officials of suppressing a critical report on suicides in prisons. Court papers filed this week show that an expert the state hired to review suicide prevention efforts called the treatment of inmates “seemingly punitive” and “anti-therapeutic.”

The report surfaces ahead of a court hearing on whether to end a decade of federal oversight of psychiatric care in the prisons.

In January, Governor Jerry Brown declared the healthcare crisis in California’s prisons was “over.” He said the severe overcrowding that prompted federal judges to cap the prison population no longer prevents inmates from getting good medical and mental health care.

“We now have the documentary evidence to make our case,” the governor said. “I’m hopeful we’ll prevail in the Ninth Circuit Court. If we don’t, we have a direct appeal on the matter of the prison cap to the U.S. Supreme Court and we will go there if needed.”

When asked to respond to blankertions from attorneys for the inmates that the rates of preventable deaths and suicides remain high, Brown said: “I categorically reject those!”

Attorneys for inmates argue that California’s high prison suicide rate — which has exceeded the national average for years — reflects a systemic failure to treat mental disorders. There were 32 prison suicides in 2012.

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Photo credit: KPCC

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