Corrections Director James H. Gomez today acknowledged Federal District Court Judge Thelton Henderson’s appraisal of the state’s efforts to improve conditions at Pelican Bay State Prison.
“There has been significant progress in the last three months,” said Judge Henderson. “This progress is not to be slighted.”
“It is gratifying to be recognized for the massive improvements we’ve initiated, particularly in the area of health care,” said Gomez. “We will be working with the court to ensure that our efforts move forward expeditiously.”
“The department successfully argued for, and received, nearly $8 million in new funding over the next two years for medical and mental health services at Pelican Bay,” Gomez explained. “In addition, I have redirected $1.5 million in staff and resources this year alone–money that had been budgeted for other important programs–to facilitate our progress,” Gomez continued.
Specifically, Gomez noted that Corrections already:
Received approval for 101 new positions for Pelican Bay costing $2.8 million in Fiscal Year 1995-96 and continuing at $5 million each successive year. Over 90 percent of these positions are now filled.
When recruitment efforts lagged, contracted with private service providers to meet the psychiatric needs of Pelican Bay inmates. Also received authorization to boost the recruitment and retention incentives for psychiatrists from $200 to $1,250 a month. When recruitment problems continued, redirected staff from other prisons to ensure that at least five psychiatrists were delivering services at Pelican Bay every week.
Activated a new Psychiatric Services Unit December 1, 1995 to treat high security inmates in need of outpatient mental health services. It is the only program of its type in the world. In less than 30 days, all inmates known to need outpatient mental health treatment were rehoused from the Security Housing Unit to the new program.
Developed and submitted to the court a detailed health care remedial plan in August 1995.
Initiated numerous interim measures while the plan was being developed which included: providing mental health treatment within the Security Housing Unit; improving medical and mental health screening for all incoming inmates to Pelican Bay; and improving health care emergency response procedures and training.
Developed and submitted to the court necessary health care policies and procedures, also in August 1995.
Authorized a special diet program to increase the cost per meal of affected inmates by 200 percent.
“Each one of these important milestones represents months of preparation and dedicated effort by Corrections staff,” said Gomez. “It has taken time, and careful planning to achieve the successes to date. We look forward to achieving our goals in the months ahead.”
Judge Henderson said he was pleased with Director Gomez’s personal assurances this morning that the department does have similar goals as the judge in complying with his order.
CDC already has met many of the requirements in today’s court order.