Tag Archives: state hospitals

Federal Judge: The Prisons Still Suck

Arnold Schwarzenegger and his cronies claim to have solved the state prison crisis, but that is very far from the truth. Sure, we are spending billions of dollars on building new prisons. (All the better to incarcerate 1% of our population) However, we still can’t seem to find the cash to actually treat the mentally ill in our prison system.  Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ordered pay hikes to all mental health professionals at our state prison system to help ease the staffing shortage in the department:

The federal judge overseeing reforms in mental healthcare for California prisoners has ordered the Department of Mental Health to significantly raise salaries of all clinicians at state mental hospitals who treat the sick prisoners.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton had indicated at a Sacramento hearing Monday that he might require pay raises only for psychiatrists. But his written order, released late Wednesday, is far more sweeping – applying also to psychologists, licensed clinical social workers and the psychiatric technicians on the front lines of day-to-day care. Still, it remained far from clear Thursday when or how the raises would be implemented and whether the majority of hospital workers would even receive them.

The move came after Karlton’s December order to sharply raise pay for prison clinicians inadvertently helped trigger an exodus of staff from the state hospitals – which treat some of the same prisoners whom Karlton’s court aims to protect. {LAT 5/25/07)

So, the raise at the prison system just made it clear that we heavily underpay our mental health professionals at the state hospitals.  I know nobody really wants to go back to the halcyon days of behemoth state hospitals and the high rates of institutionalization, but there needs to be some balance.  Clearly our homelessness rates have been affected by the massive cuts to mental health care, and this in turn leads to additional prisoners.  We keep treating the symptoms and ignoring the disease.  So, let’s build more prisons, that’ll do it. That’s way more practical than addressing the underlying root causes.  Because my mama always said, “A pound of ineffective ameliorative care is worth jack squat.” Oh, hmm, is that how that goes?