A spotlight is being shined on the alleged lack of mental health care in California prisons after a recent report involving an incident last year, in which an inmate at a Chino prison ripped her own eyeballs out and ate them.
Los Angeles Times reports that the the inmate reportedly had screaming fits at 15-minute intervals that lasted around four hours while on suicide watch at the California Institution for Women in 2017. When she didn’t receive help, she reportedly laid herself on the floor inside the prison hospital and using her own hands, tore one eyeball out and swallowed it.
Guards then began rushing toward the inmate, but by the they time reached her, she had already gouged her other eyeball out and swallowed it at as well.
According to the outlet, the patient, whose name is undisclosed, was not taking medication while in prison, which in turn made her “psychotic.” Although the prisoner was said to have exhibited signs that she required medication, the psychologist who evaluated her chose not to call a psychiatrist to prescribe her medication.
“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,” chief psychiatrist for the California prison system, Dr. Michael Golding, wrote in a report last week while addressing inmate mental health issues within the California prison system.
Golding wrote the report in an attempt to detail the ongoing problems at California prisons and how mental health issues are reportedly not being dealt with properly. In a 161-page document, Golding alleged that California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation continues to hide the problems with providing satisfactory health care to prisoners.
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Golding filed the papers last week in a federal court. It’s an additional part of a lawsuit that spans back decades and contends that inmates have the constitutional right to adequate psychiatric care. Golding said inmates are rarely seen by mental health experts in time to help them. Further, he said patients that do get mental health care are limited to spaces where they can talk openly about their issues, among other problems.
Confidential offices for mental health experts and patients do not exist, Golding wrote.
He also accused the prison system of embellishing the level of mental health care for inmates. He wrote that mental health appointments with many inmates consisted of a guard meeting with the patient in the prison yard or the inmate talking to a psychiatrist via a laptop held by a guard outside a cell door.
Although the psychologist who assessed the inmate who ripped her eyes out decided against calling a psychiatrist to administer drugs to the patient, other physicians who reviewed the ordeal contended that she showed “every sign” of needing medication, even if they had to administer the drugs by force. Health professionals including nurses and other psychologists said that failure to medicate the inmate is why she gouged her eyes out.
Spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Vicky Waters, indicated that the department “strongly disagrees with (Golding’s) allegations, and looks forward to a fair and thorough review and hearing of all the facts,” according to the San Fransisco Chronicle.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller stated she planned to have an investigator figure out whether California state officials lied about the level of psychiatric care provided to inmates in prison.
[Feature Photo: Pixabay]