California mistreating mentally ill inmates, says judge

SACRAMENTO, CA - A federal judge has ruled that California's treatment of mentally ill inmates violates constitutional safeguards against cruel and unusual punishment through excessive use of pepper spray and isolation.

In the ruling issued Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Karlton gave the corrections department time to issue updated policies on the use of both methods but did not ban them.

Karlton gave the department a range of options on how it could limit the use of pepper spray and isolation units.

The ruling came after the release of what the judge calls horrific videotapes made by prison guards showing them pumping large amounts of pepper spray into the cells of mentally ill inmates, some of whom are heard screaming.

He also ruled that isolating mentally ill inmates causes serious psychological harm.

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