Chino, CA — In a testament to the neglect and abuse suffered by inmates at the hands of police, a woman in Chino, California—in dire need of medical attention for a mental health problem—was ignored until she literally ripped out her own eyeball and swallowed it.
Every 15 minutes, for four hours straight, the woman had screaming fits which were ignored repeatedly. This neglect by jail staff was in spite of the fact that the woman was admitted and known to be 'psychotic.'
After four hours of being ignored, the woman fell to the ground and began pry her eyeball from her skull. She was able to remove the entire eyeball and swallow before the guards paid any attention.
According to the LA Times,
The woman, identified only as Inmate Patient X in federal court documents, had not been given medication despite being listed as “psychotic” while at the California Institution for Women in Chino in 2017.
A report written by Dr. Michael Golding, the chief psychiatrist for the prison system, detailed the gruesome incident in a report made public last week to highlight how the state allegedly has failed to care for some of its most vulnerable inmates. Golding alleges in the 161-page document that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has concealed issues surrounding the adequacy of mental healthcare and staffing in prisons from officials who could mandate changes.
Detailing the immense depth of the problems within the jail system in Chino, Golding explained that "this group has created a biased and inaccurately positive picture of what is actually a troubled system of care."
The disturbing part is that the woman was evaluated by a psychologist, deemed psychotic, and then thrown into a cage with everyone else without any help. Had she been administered the proper medication, she may still have her eye today. Golding agrees.
"The tragedy is that any competent psychiatric physician or general medical physician would have medicated the patient, and likely the patient's eye would still be in her head had that happened," Golding said in his report.
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Naturally, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation not only denied any and all allegations of incompetence, but they issued a counter statement slamming Golding's report.
"The department strongly disagrees with this individual's allegations, and looks forward to a fair and thorough review and hearing of all the facts," a spokeswoman for the CDCR said.
"We have worked closely with lawyers representing prisoners, as well as the court appointment monitors, for many years to improve the mental health of inmates, and our dedicated and well-trained staff will continue to provide appropriate care and treatment," the spokeswoman continued.
Sadly, this case is just a symptom of a much larger problem stemming from police force being used to handle problems with mental illness. All too often, people in need of dire mental health help get the police instead. Many times, instead of receiving help, they are arrested, beaten, shot, or killed.
Those who are arrested then have their mental health criminalized and are thrown in cages. Sadly, even though this problem has been an issue for years, it is getting worse, not better.
As the LA Times explains, mental healthcare inside prisons isn’t a waning issue for the state. A study published by Stanford Law School in 2017 notes that even as the overall state prison population declines, the prevalence and severity of mental illness among those in the state prison system is on the rise. More than 30% of California prisoners currently receive treatment for serious mental disorders, an increase of 150% since 2000, according to the study.
As TFTP previously reported, the Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center, an organization dedicated to eliminating the barriers faced by those with severe mental illnesses, released a jaw-dropping report. In their report titled, Overlooked in the Undercounted: The Role of Mental Illness in Fatal Law Enforcement Encounters, researchers discovered that people with an untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during an interaction with police than anyone else.
According to the study, by all accounts – official and unofficial – a minimum of 1 in 4 fatal police encounters ends the life of an individual with severe mental illness.