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Report: Mentally ill California inmate ripped out own eye, ate it

A female inmate at a California prison last year gouged out her own eye and ate it during a psychotic break, according to an internal report blasting the state’s prison system for inadequate care of mentally ill patients. 

The report, released last week as part of an ongoing, decades-long federal lawsuit over inmate care, was written by Dr. Michael Golding, the chief psychiatrist for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The Los Angeles Times, which reported on the document Monday, said that Golding accused prison officials of hiding the truth about the subpar mental health care they provide to those in custody. 

“This group has created a biased and inaccurately positive picture of what is actually a troubled system of care,” Golding wrote in the report, which was obtained through federal court documents. 

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The Associated Press reported that U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller, who made the 161-page report public Oct. 31, is considering appointing a special investigator to look into Golding’s claims. 

Golding, who wrote the report based on his own visits to prisons across California, alleged that officials lied to Mueller and attorneys in the case about how often inmates were seen by psychiatrists, boasting in 2017 and 2018 that inmates were seen on time by their doctors at least 90 percent of the time. Golding said the actual percentage of on-time appointments was less than 46 percent. 

The chief psychiatrist wrote that inmates were denied appointments in confidential offices, instead being seen by a psychiatrist in the prison yard or through a crack in a solid metal door, where other inmates could hear the details of their conversation. 

The corrections department also has a “resetting-the-clock” strategy in which a mental health patient’s psychiatric care is “reset” each time he or she is transferred from one facility to another, Golding wrote in the report. The strategy was used to “deem as compliant appointments occurring later than the maximum interval” permitted, he alleged. 

“They reset the clock every time a patient is transferred, irrespective of when the patient last saw a psychiatrist,” the report states. “A…patient transferred more than once might not have another psychiatry appointment for eight months.”

The maximum amount of time the federal court allows a patient to wait to be seen is three months, the report said.

Golding wrote that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has a “broken system” because information is not accurately reported and “reliable commonsensical action” is not taken. 

“I have documented that patients are not getting to appointments on schedule and in confidential spaces, that appropriate consultation is not occurring, and worse, appropriate medical decision-making by psychiatric physicians has been overridden,” he wrote. 

The lack of a proper medical decision was part of the problem for the woman who removed and ate her eye at the California Institution for Women in Chino, the report alleged. Golding wrote that the woman, who he identified as Patient X, presented “relatively well” when she entered the prison system, but she stopped taking the anti-psychotic medication she had been prescribed on the outside. 

“Arguably, in situations like this, longer transitions for patients at higher levels of care should be insisted upon when medication from the community is discontinued, even if the patient appears to have the legal right to discontinue medication because of presenting in a logical way,” Golding wrote. 

The patient was well for as long as the medication stayed in her system, but eventually, those positive effects wore off and she “did not stay well,” the report stated. Four hours before the April 20, 2017, incident, she was evaluated by a psychiatrist and found to be “gravely disabled,” so the psychiatrist wrote orders for her to be taken to the licensed psychiatric crisis bed unit. 

“These admission orders were being followed, except for the order for the patient to go to a crisis bed,” Golding wrote. 

Instead, the patient was being monitored in an unlicensed setting that was more like an urgent care facility and, although she was on one-to-one suicide watch as ordered, she was not placed in a “strong gown” because she refused to comply with that order. 

Documentation indicated she was actively psychotic at the time of admission, the report said. 

“Documentation from the one-to-one observer noted ‘screaming’ every 15 minutes for most of the four-hour period,” Golding’s report said.

Golding wrote that staff members did not contact the psychiatrist on call and the woman did not receive any medication during those four hours. The woman, who was lying face-up on the floor, then touched her left eye for several seconds before removing it from her head. 

“The alarm was sounded and two correctional officers entered the cell,” the report stated. “The (inmate patient) was asked to relinquish the eye, however, she put the eye in her mouth and ingested it.”

Read Golding’s entire, 161-page report below.

Golding alleged that multiple psychiatrists who subsequently heard about the incident agreed medication should have been forced on the woman to keep her out of harm’s way. State prison psychologists who evaluated how staff handled the incident, however, determined the failure to contact the psychiatrist on call was not the root cause of the woman’s self-harm. 

A psychiatrist, who is a medical doctor, has the ability to prescribe medications, while a psychologist does not. Golding wrote in his report that psychiatrists in the prison system routinely report to psychologists, who make the majority of decisions about system-wide care. 

The psychologist in the woman’s case made the decision not to contact the psychiatrist on call, Golding wrote. 

He further wrote that the psychologist did not have admitting privileges to the crisis bed unit and that “despite this horrendous event,” the state licensing board was never informed of what happened because the inmate was being held in an unlicensed facility instead of where she should have been. 

“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 wrote. 

A Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman denied Golding’s allegations in a statement issued Friday, the Times reported

“The department strongly disagrees with this individual’s allegations and looks forward to a fair and thorough review and hearing of all the facts,” press secretary Vicky Waters 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.”

Michael Bien, the attorney for California prisoners receiving mental health care, told the Times that the report could throw off the headway made in recent years in improving the programs offered by the prisons. Bien said he had been poised to accept a proposal that would have slashed psychiatric staffing in the facilities by 20 percent, but the agreement has been nixed since Goldberg’s report was released. 

“The bigger impact is we felt we were ticking off the last couple of issues before we could end the case,” Bien told the Times. “Now I have to go back and check all those assumptions. The most serious thing is the allegation that misrepresentations were made to the court. That really forces all of us to question what’s been going on.”

14 Idaho educators suspended for offensive border wall, ‘Mexican’ costumes

A total of 14 faculty and staff members at an Idaho elementary school have been placed on administrative leave after photos of them dressed as a border wall and Mexicans for Halloween brought the school unwanted national attention. 

The Middleton School District and its Heights Elementary School came under fire last week after the photos of the costumes -- which were posted to the district’s Facebook page -- went viral on social media. Middleton Superintendent Josh Middleton announced the suspensions of those involved at a school board meeting called Saturday to address the controversy, the Idaho Statesman reported

A member of the school district’s crisis team has taken over the duties of principal at the elementary school for the time being, Middleton said in a statement posted to the school’s website

The superintendent said that members of the crisis team will be on hand at the school this week, as will security officers. The district will also start providing cultural sensitivity training for all staff members, beginning Wednesday. 

The Middleton Police Department also added extra patrols and a presence at the school to ensure the children remained safe.

The incident has become the source of dueling petitions, including one established on MoveOn.org demanding a proactive approach from the school district. As of Monday afternoon, just over 10,000 had signed the petition.

A Change.org petition seeking to save the jobs of Heights’ principal, teachers and staff, had more than 12,000 signatures by the same time period. The person who established the petition wrote that supporters of the group “believe (the incident has) been blown out of proportion, as this was a team building exercise done after school with no students present or involved.”

Middleton said in Saturday’s statement that the school district “is under a microscope,” but that he views the situation as an opportunity for employees to learn and grow. 

“The events of this week, we take very seriously,” Middleton said. “As hard as these events are for ALL involved, we must learn from this and be better as an entire staff for our students, parents and the community we represent.”

The superintendent’s statement echoed the sentiments he expressed Friday, when he apologized in a short video posted to the school district’s Facebook page. The Facebook page has since been made unavailable to the public. 

>> Related story: Idaho superintendent apologizes after teachers dress up as border wall, Mexicans

It was on that same page that the public first glimpsed the photos, which were later deleted but had already been copied and circulated on social media. In one photo, six employees are dressed as pieces of a cardboard wall painted to resemble bricks. 

“Make America Great Again” is spelled out in red, white and blue letters, and one woman has a crown and torch as the Statue of Liberty. Another waves an American flag and a third wears a patriotic-themed hat. 

In a second photo, several employees are dressed in garishly colorful ponchos, sombreros and fake mustaches. They pose and shake maracas for the camera.

The photos prompted outrage across the country, as well as within the Idaho community. The ACLU of Idaho on Saturday published a statement condemning the costumes and urging school district officials to use the incident proactively to engage the school community and the larger community of Middleton to “create a welcoming environment where all students can thrive.”

“Regardless of the intent of a teacher’s actions in the classroom, we must focus on and give weight to the impact of such actions on the students who rely on teachers and other school officials for guidance and support throughout their educational experience” the ACLU chapter’s statement said. “School districts, their staff and other agents have obligations under federal law, state law, and district policies to prevent and protect students, staff, and others from discrimination, bullying, intimidation, and harassment.”

Administrators of the Idaho DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Facebook page also posted the photos last week, describing them as “extremely disheartening” and said that all children have the right to a school that celebrates all cultural backgrounds. 

“Imagine how some of the students felt when they walked into their classrooms on Halloween and saw their teachers (people they look up to) dressed like this?” the statement read. “This is NOT funny. This is heartbreaking. Students deserve better.”

Middleton, who called the costumes “clearly insensitive and inappropriate” on Friday, said he was informed of the photos by a concerned parent. 

Along with the school district’s Facebook page, the administration section of Heights Elementary’s website has also been made unavailable, but a popup window contains the statement Middleton released over the weekend, along with one from the school board. 

“This type of behavior has no place in education and certainly is not tolerated here at Middleton School District,” the school board’s statement said. “This situation is being taken very seriously. We are in full support of our superintendent and administrative staff as a full investigation is being conducted and are awaiting the results of the investigation to assure appropriate disciplinary action is taken.

“We care about each of our students, their education, and their safety. This is an unfortunate incident of very poor judgment. Yet it is not indicative of the Middleton School District or our teachers as a whole.”

Man shows up at Halloween party in KKK robe, hood

A Mississippi man found himself banned from a Picayune bar after he showed up to a Halloween costume party Saturday dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan. 

The unidentified man walked into Mutt & BC’s Bar and Grill, where a costume contest was taking place, wearing a white robe and pointed hood reminiscent of the outfit worn by Klan members. He carried a Mississippi state flag, which is the only state flag in the United States to still utilize the Confederate battle flag in its design. 

Chance Delaney, who posted a photo of the man’s costume on Facebook, told the Jackson Clarion Ledger that he received the image from a friend who asked to remain anonymous. 

“This was worn for a costume contest at a bar in Picayune, Ms., and they say racism is dead,” Delaney wrote in a post. “DISGUSTING.”

Bryan Carroll, co-owner of Mutt & BC’s, agreed. He told the Clarion Ledger he made the man leave and barred him from returning to the establishment. 

“We do not tolerate or condone racism at any level of our business, customers or staff,” Carroll told the newspaper. “Everyone is welcome, and we do have all walks of life and all races that patronize our place.”

Carroll said several black patrons were in the bar when the man, who was not a regular customer, came in with his “garbage” costume, the newspaper said. 

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The man’s actions came hours after a gunman walked into a synagogue in Pittsburgh and opened fire, killing 11 congregants who had gathered to worship on Shabbat, which is the Jewish Sabbath. Six others were injured, including four police officers responding to the shooting.

The alleged gunman, Robert Bowers, 46, shouted that “all Jews must die” as he opened fire, police officials said. 

Picayune Mayor Ed Pinero praised how Carroll handled the bar patron’s costume choice, which he described as unacceptable. 

“The city of Picayune does not support any type of racist or derogatory actions, period, whether it’s true to life or a costume party,” Pinero told the Clarion Ledger

Mississippi is not the only state where Halloween costumes have sparked outrage in recent weeks. A Kentucky man last week found himself defending -- and then apologizing for -- his choice to dress his 5-year-old son as Adolph Hitler

Bryant Goldbach, of Owensboro, went to a city trick-or-treating event dressed as a Nazi officer, while his son wore a suit, a swastika armband and a Hitler mustache. Goldbach initially defended his choice by saying the costumes were historical, but later backed down. 

“I think it was in bad taste for me to let my child to wear that, probably for me to wear that. It didn't occur to me,” Goldbach told WEHT. “I thought it was a bad decision on my part.”

The Anti-Defamation League reported in February that anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. rose almost 60 percent in 2017, the larges single-year jump on record and the second-highest number of incidents since the ADL began tracking data in the 1970s. There were 1,986 incidents reported across the country, occurring in all 50 states for the first time in at least 10 years, the organization reported.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, estimates that there are between 5,000 and 8,000 Klan members in the U.S. as of last year.  

Watch black C-Span guest respond to white caller on how to erase his prejudices

A video making the rounds on social media shows a frank conversation between a white caller and a black guest on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal,” during which the caller asks the woman how he can stop being prejudiced against people of color.

The North Carolina man called in Sunday and spoke to Heather McGhee, the president of public policy organization Demos. In the video, McGhee can be seen nodding her head thoughtfully as the man speaks.

The unidentified man told McGhee, in part: “I’m a white male, and I am prejudiced. And the reason it is, is something I wasn’t taught but it’s kind of something that I learned.

“When I open up the papers, I get very discouraged at what young black males are doing to each other and at the crime rate. I understand that they live in an environment with a lot of drugs — you have to get money for drugs. It is a deep issue that goes beyond that. But when, I have these different fears, and I don’t want my fears to come true, you know, so I try to avoid that, and I come off as being prejudiced, but I just have fears. I don’t like to be forced to like people. I like to be led to like people through example. What can I do to change? You know? To be a better American?”

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McGhee responded by thanking the man.

“Thank you so much for being honest and for opening up this conversation, because it is simply one of the most important ones we have to have in this country,” she said. “You know, we are not a country that is united, because we are all one racial group that all descended from one tribe in one community.

“That is actually, I think, what makes this country beautiful, but it’s our challenge.”

She told the man that people of all races and backgrounds hold fears and prejudices. She said that for him to acknowledge his was “one of the most powerful things that we can do right now in this moment in our history.”

McGhee offered the man several ideas on how he could get rid of his fear of black people. She told him not to form opinions about people of color from the news, which she said over-represents crimes committed by people of color, but to get to know black families, to join a black or interracial church if he is religious and to read the history of the black community.

She also urged him to start conversations about race within his own community.

McGhee said the United States is still a very segregated country.

“Millions of white Americans live in places where they rarely see anyone of a different race,” she said. “This fear and set of ideas that we only get from the worst possible news; it’s tearing us apart.”

She said Americans must foster relationships across race, gender and age.

“We have to get to know who one another actually is. And we are always, I think, as Americans surprised when we build relationships across race,” McGhee said.

As of Wednesday, McGhee’s conversation with the man had been viewed more than 2 million times on Demos’ Facebook page. See their exchange below. 

Conversations like this one between Demos President Heather McGhee and a caller striving to learn how to confront his prejudices are the key to coming together and solving problems in this country.Posted by Demos on Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Why students don't have to stand for Pledge of Allegiance in Florida

Compiled from Associated Press and Florida News Service reports.

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Students excused from having to daily recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Florida public schools would no longer have to stand and hold their hands over their heart either, under a bill that is headed to the House floor.

The House Education Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill (HB 1403) that would change how students are notified of their right to skip the daily pledge and what the excused student must do during the pledge.

Current law requires schools to conspicuously post a notice, telling students they don’t have to recite the pledge if a parent asks in writing for a student to be excused. The law also requires excused students to still stand and hold their hands over their hearts while the pledge is recited.

The bill would allow the notice to instead be placed in a student handbook, and excused students would no longer be required to stand or hold their hands over their hearts.

The bill was filed after a parent of a child at a Panhandle school told the school district it was not following notice requirements. A Senate companion bill has not yet been heard in the first of its three required committees.

Town to remove Christian flag flying over city hall

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A small town's city council - against the advice of its attorneys - voted to fly a Christian flag over city hall to promote a local Bible-reading marathon.

What could go wrong?

City officials in Cochran, Ga., have now bowed to threats of legal action and "fiscal" concerns and will remove the flag on Friday.

The controversy began early last month when the Cochran City Council voted to help promote a local Bible-reading marathon sponsored by the International Bible Reading Association.

While city officials have said local residents supported the decision, national groups including the D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State said they have received several complaints over the matter.

The group recently sent letters to both the city and Bleckley County, Georgia — which has flown the flag in the past — declaring that flying the Christian flag on public property violates the First Amendment.

The group in part cited a recent legal case in which a North Carolina city agreed to stop displaying the Christian flag, which includes a Latin cross, at a government-sponsored veterans memorial.

The decision to fly and then remove the flag comes just one month after a North Georgia county caught heck for raising the Confederate battle flag over its courthouse.

In a statement on its website, the city of Cochran said it has decided to take the flag down “after reviewing further input from the community, detailed written legal opinions from our city attorney and a second legal opinion from a constitutional lawyer.”

In the future, the city said it would only fly the U.S. and state flags at city hall.

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