Six videos of dramatic confrontations between mentally ill prison inmates and California prison guards were filed yesterday in federal court, giving the public its first glimpse of what inmate advocates contend are inhumane uses of force, reports the Sacramento Bee. The videos have been the subject of legal battles for months as the state corrections department tried unsuccessfully to block them from being shown in court. Until yesterday, they had been viewed by only a small group of observers, played under tight restrictions in a Sacramento federal courtroom as part of an ongoing class-action lawsuit.
The videos are considered critical evidence in support of the efforts by inmate attorneys to win court-ordered changes in the handling of mentally ill prisoners in California, particularly when it comes to the use of pepper spray, batons and other types of heightened force. Inmates’ attorneys contend the videos offer stark evidence of mentally ill prisoners being subjected to cruel and unnecessary force, and they insist the public should know what techniques are being used behind in taxpayer-funded prisons. In the videos, guards can be seen using heavy amounts of pepper spray and physical force to subdue inmates in mental health units who have disobeyed orders or are refusing to take medication or leave their cells. In some scenes, the inmates scream in pain or confusion, at times appearing fearful about what is being done and why.