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Mental Health Care In California Prisons Still In Crisis

SAN FRANCISCO, March 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Lawyers representing prisoners with serious mental illness in California state prisons filed their opposition to the State of California's motion to terminate Coleman v. Brown – the long-running lawsuit that led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2011 that California must reduce prison overcrowding to address constitutional violations and inhumane treatment of the mentally ill in California's prisons. The motion will be argued in federal court in Sacramento on March 27.

The 99-page brief, which is supported by hundreds of pages of expert testimony from some of the nation's leading experts in prison reform and mental health care, provides overwhelming evidence that the State has failed to follow court orders and the recommendations of its own staff and experts to address horrific conditions and violent, inhumane treatment of the mentally ill in state prisons – contributing to a suicide rate among prisoners that is far above the national average.

"The State, with Governor Brown cynically leading the charge, would like you to believe that the prison mental health care crisis has disappeared simply because they say it is so," said Michael Bien of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld, lead attorney for the Coleman class. "Realignment and a reduction in the prison population provided an opportunity for the state to solve the mental health crisis – instead the administration has gone on a PR and litigation offensive, rather than taking simple, affordable steps to change a dangerously flawed system."

Bien continued, "The State maximized budget savings through massive layoffs of clinical staff, and cancellations and delays of building and upgrade projects, forcing overworked clinicians to work double-duty to take care of seriously ill patients in the same dangerous and inappropriate offices and treatment spaces that the Supreme Court found to be unconstitutional less than two years ago."

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