A federal judge has ruled that California is treating its mentally unstable prisoners unlawfully after videotapes released to the public showed guards pumping pepper spray into cells and throwing chemical grenades toward inmates
A federal judge ruled on Thursday that California is violating the Constitution in its treatment of mentally ill patients in correctional facilities. He said that too much use of pepper spray and isolation constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, according to the Associated Press.
U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Karlton in Sacramento said the corrections department would have to update its policies on pepper spray and isolation within 60 days. The ruling came after videotapes were released to the public showing prison guards pumping copious amounts of pepper spray into cells and throwing chemical grenades. Some of the mentally ill patients in the video are screaming. “Most of the videos were horrific,” Karlton wrote in his order. He also concluded that too much isolation can cause ill inmates psychological harm and increase their risk of suicide.
Mentally ill inmates make up 28% of California’s 120,000 total prisoners. The ruling is only one of many changes in the California prison system prompted by a 24-year-old lawsuit.