Moulds further found corrections officials were deliberately indifferent to these shortcomings in violation of the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Today, according to Brown and his corrections officials, the prisons provide timely treatment to more than 33,000 inmates diagnosed with mental disorders, conduct approximately 95,000 mental health treatment appointments each month, and maintain 1,176 high-level-of-care mental health beds.
The state says it now employs more than 1,180 psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers, provides medication at an annual cost of $25 million, appropriately treats and supervises inmates at risk of suicide, and considers the mental health of an inmate when imposing behavioral discipline.
This, the Brown administration says, has cost state taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
California officials contend that the oversight of prison health care has been a drain on taxpayers' pocketbooks by inmates' lawyers, the court-appointed special master and his battery of experts, and a court-appointed receiver and his staff who are in charge of inmate medical care under the auspices of a separate lawsuit.
Together, these people are paid millions of dollars each year by the state.
"In 2012, more than half the amount paid to the special master went to attorneys in his law firm, rather than to court-appointed mental-health experts," the state complained in a recent court filing, adding that these five attorneys bill the state an average of $30,000 to $40,000 each month.
Inmate advocates say the case has nothing to do with money, and contend they remain on the job because severe problems persist inside the prisons.
Edward Kaufman, a psychiatrist with extensive experience heading up prison mental health care units nationwide, wrote in documents filed Thursday night that he toured prisons last month in Chowchilla, Chino and Corcoran and found serious and familiar problems.
He described chronic staffing shortages, sometimes caused by the remote locations of some prisons, as well as poor handling of suicidal inmates and practices that left them segregated in harsh settings.
"I found ample evidence that all of these problems -- and others -- persist and that they are interfering with the delivery of essential mental health services at the three prisons I toured in February 2013," Kaufman wrote.
Last month, the inmates' attorneys charged that corrections officials hid a key report on "basic life-saving measures" meant to prevent prisoner suicides.
The report was written by the corrections department's own suicide expert, who was hired as a consultant to compile a detailed assessment with recommendations on how suicide rates could be lowered.
Instead, when the report was delivered in August 2011 it was "buried" without any of its recommendations being put in place, according to internal department emails.
That report by Lindsay Hayes, project director for the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, recommended, among other actions, that prisons strengthen tracking of inmates who attempt suicide and halt the use of "harsh" observation tactics "such as inmates being stripped naked and deprived of showers and other privileges."
The inmates' lawyers produced emails between Hayes and corrections officials in which Hayes complains that his report fell on deaf ears and his consulting work for the department "stopped dead in the water."
Robert Canning, the corrections department's suicide prevention coordinator, conceded to Hayes that his work was not embraced.
"Obviously when your report landed it was not roundly applauded and in fact was buried," he wrote to Hayes in a June 2012 email included in court documents.
Despite the emails, corrections officials deny the claim.
"The report was not buried, and in fact we have implemented many of Mr. Hayes' recommendations," said Dr. Diana Toche, acting undersecretary for administration and offender services.
Hayes had complained that suicidal inmates typically were housed in cells without beds and recommended equipping cells with suicide-resistant beds. Toche said the department has since purchased 250 of those for $726,000.
Corrections officials also implemented other of Hayes' recommendations and are "committed to a robust suicide prevention program," she said.
"We take every death seriously, and are constantly trying to improve and better the care."
Brown, in his interview with the Bee, noted that mental health care for inmates now surpasses what is available to the general public.
"I just talked to personnel at one prison that has 32 psychologists, 10 psychiatrists and 24 psychiatric technicians for 3,600 patients," the governor said. "That kind of firepower is not available to anybody who is not in prison."
The inmates' attorneys dispute that and say the state is stonewalling their efforts to prove the system is still broken.
Last month, the inmates' attorneys received copies of two letters signed by a group of psychiatrists who work at the Salinas Valley State Prison complaining they are averaging a caseload of about 40 patients daily, with some averaging up to 60 daily. The psychiatrists contend the standard caseload should be 15 and that "current staffing levels will create an unacceptable level of risk as far as patient safety."
The inmates' lawyers, over the strong objections of the state, took sworn testimony from one of the psychiatrists, who testified that the psychiatric staff at Salinas is "under constant pressure from above" to authorize early release of mentally ill inmates, said Bien, the inmates' attorney.
In addition, according to Bien, the psychiatrist testified that the facility is so understaffed due to layoffs that conventional treatment has given way to crisis management. One patient died late last year due to a lack of proper treatment, Bien said the psychiatrist testified.
The state Department of State Hospitals denies there is a crisis at the psychiatric hospital inside the Salinas prison, saying staffers there became concerned when three psychiatrists left for other jobs and several others were expected to leave.
"However, not all of the anticipated departures occurred, and the department has already put new psychiatrists in place at Salinas Valley and is continuing to recruit," the department said in a statement.
The acting director of the hospitals department also met with the staff there earlier this month to reassure them, the statement said, adding that "there is currently no anticipated staffing crisis at DSH-Salinas Valley."
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