California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has introduced new policies for the use of force against mentally ill prisoners that are among the most detailed in the nation.
The changes, which were introduced on Friday, were set in motion after videos showed corrections officers in state prisons dousing severely mentally ill inmates with pepper spray and forcibly removing them from their cells. The videos drew public outrage and were called “horrific” by a federal judge who ordered the footage made public last year.
The department said the revised policies, filed in Federal District Court on Friday in response to an order issued by Judge Lawrence K. Karlton in April, represented “a systemwide culture change” in how correctional staff members deal with mentally ill prisoners. The corrections department worked to revise the policies with a special master appointed by the court and consulted on the revisions with lawyers for the plaintiffs in a long-running lawsuit over the state’s treatment of mentally ill prisoners that led to the judge’s order.