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A federal judge has found top California prison officials in civil contempt for failing to hire enough mental health professionals to adequately treat tens of thousands of incarcerated people with serious mental disorders.

Chief U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller on June 25 ordered the state to pay $112 million in fines at a time when the state is trying to close a multibillion-dollar budget deficit. The fines have been accumulating since April 2023, after Mueller said she was fed up with the state prison system’s inadequate staffing despite years of court orders demanding that the state address the issue.

“The sanctions imposed here are necessary to sharpen that focus and magnify defendants’ sense of urgency to finally achieve a lasting remedy for chronic mental health understaffing in the state’s prison system,” Mueller said in her order in the long-running class-action lawsuit.



A federal judge has found California prison officials in civil contempt for failing to hire enough mental health professionals to adequately treat incarcerated individuals with serious mental disorders. The judge ordered the state to pay $112 million in fines, which will be used to address the chronic mental health staffing shortages in the prison system. The ruling comes as the state is struggling with a budget deficit, and the governor’s office has argued that the judge is setting impossible standards for improving mental health treatment in prisons.

The judge’s contempt finding is the latest development in a long-running class-action lawsuit over the poor treatment of prisoners with mental disorders. The judge has also imposed additional fines for other violations, including a backlog in sending imprisoned people to state mental health facilities. The state has been ordered to pay these fines within 30 days, and the judge has said that the state will continue to be fined for each month it remains in violation of the court orders.

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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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