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A Day in California's Psychiatric Prison Units

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In California, prisoners who repeatedly violate rules or commit new crimes end up in segregation units. These are like prisons within the prison. A federal judge recently ruled that this kind of punishment might pose too great a risk for inmates with serious mental illness -- who often worsen in segregation and become suicidal.

Inmates in segregation spend more time in their cells; they’re often in handcuffs and leg chains, and they have to submit to frequent strip searches for weapons and drugs.

The California State Prison in Sacramento runs one segregation unit for inmates who committed a serious crime but also have a severe mental illness. KQED News got a rare tour of the facility.

Photos and audio by Julie Small, photos of weapons courtesy the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, production by Lisa Pickoff-White


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