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California’s beleaguered prison now faces investigation into mental health facilities

Posted Jul 12, 2013 2:15 PM CDT
By Terry Carter

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As problems with California’s prison system continue to mount, on Thursday the state Senate confirmed Gov. Jerry Brown’s pick to run the system, and a federal judge ordered an investigation of conditions at mental health facilities in the prisons.

Despite objections from Republicans in the legislature, Jeffrey Beard, who retired after running Pennsylvania’s prisons, was confirmed to run California’s corrections department. Beard ran into some opposition from Republicans concerned about his role as an expert witness for plaintiffs in lawsuits against the state concerning overcrowding and psychiatric care, the Los Angeles Times reports here and here.

Similar suits challenge medical care, use of force and solitary confinement in the prison system, and a federal court order calls for lessening the prison population by nearly 10,000. Beard was confirmed as a massive hunger strike among prisoners entered its fourth day. In a separate story, the Times reports the strike now includes more than 12,400 inmates who've missed meals for four days. The number is down from 30,000 on Monday.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton ordered a special master to complete a report on the psychiatric facility for prisoners at the Salinas Valley state prison and to investigate program at the facility at Vacaville state prison and one scheduled to open this month in Stockton. Judge Karlton has been overseeing court-ordered improvements in care.

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