San Quentin Plans to Open Psychiatric Hospital for Death Row Inmates

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Under court pressure to improve psychiatric care for deeply disturbed death row inmates, state officials are moving quickly to open a 40-bed hospital at San Quentin prison to house them.


Razor wire encircles the exercise yard at San Quentin. Federal courts have ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute people who are not aware of what is happening to them. Some analysts see irony in providing for the long-term mental health of those sentenced to die. (Credit:Los Angeles Times)

The court-appointed monitor of mental health care in California’s prison system reported to judges Tuesday that about three dozen men on death row are so mentally ill that they require inpatient care, with 24-hour nursing.

For now, they are being treated in their cells, but the state plans to have a hospital setting ready for them by November, according to documents filed Tuesday in federal court.

The plan calls for taking over and retrofitting most of a new medical unit recently built at the prison. A spokeswoman for the court’s prison medical office said San Quentin officials plan to use medical facilities at other prisons if a shortage of beds arises as a result.

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