A report made public last week sheds some light on the struggles associated with prison inmates suffering from mental illnesses.
A woman in a Chino prison had a screaming fit for four straight hours, with no assistance, before deciding to rip out her own eyeball and swallow it. The woman, identified only as Inmate Patient X, had been refused medication at the California Institution for Women in Chino since 2017, despite being listed as "psychotic".
The Chief Psychiatrist at the prison, Dr. Michael Golding, said he made the federal court documents public last week in order to bring more attention to the lack of inmate care. The 161-page document states that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation hid issues surrounding the mental healthcare of it's inmates.
“This group has created a biased and inaccurately positive picture of what is actually a troubled system of care,” Golding wrote.
The report by Dr. Golding spanned almost three decades, and claims that psychiatric care in prison systems is, and should, be a constitutional right. He said that one of the main issues within the system is that inmates very rarely have the time or space to talk openly with mental health staffers.
According to Dr. Golding, the system is “by no means conducive to good patient care.”
The study also concluded that about 30% of California prisoners receive mental health treatment, an increase of 150% from 2000.
Vicky Waters, press secretary for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, released this statement on Friday:
“The department strongly disagrees with this individual’s allegations, and looks forward to a fair and thorough review and hearing of all the facts,” she said. “We have worked closely with lawyers representing prisoners, as well as the court appointment monitors, for many years to improve the mental health of inmates, and our dedicated and well-trained staff will continue to provide appropriate care and treatment.”
Psychologists and nurses at the prison later said that the failure to provide medicine was not the cause of the inmate removing her eye.
“The tragedy is that any competent psychiatric physician or general medical physician would have medicated the patient, and likely the patient’s eye would still be in her head had that happened,” Dr. Golding said.
Read the full report on the Los Angeles Times.