Prison Pepper Spray Use Under Debate

Nov 8, 2013

Attorneys for California, and those representing prison inmates, are presenting a federal judge with starkly different views of prison guards' use of pepper spray against the mentally ill.

Credit Ardiart/Wikimedia

At issue in the trial that ended yesterday is whether guards' heavy use of pepper spray against some mentally ill inmates violates prisoners' civil rights.

Jeffrey Bornstein, an attorney representing inmates, said in closing arguments that guards shoudl treat the inmates as mentally ill people who need help.

Patrick McKinney is a supervising deputy attorney general who represents the state in the case. He says there is no evidence of a system-wide problem.

The trial in federal court featured the airing of a half-dozen videos that showed pepper spray used mutliple times on screaming inmates who refused to leave their cells.