California Prisoners Denied Showers and Forced to Lie in Their Own Feces

Written by Carimah Townes

The California Health Care Facility in Stockton was ordered to stop admitting inmates due to unsanitary conditions and medical malpractice — leading to one man’s death and an outbreak of scabies. The facility, specifically designed as a premier institution for “patient-inmates,” allowed prisoners to languish in their feces for extended periods of time, provided broken wheelchairs, and ignored patient requests for medical assistance.

Inspectors, who were court-appointed to investigate the facility early last year, identified several other examples of patient mistreatment. “A shortage of towels forced prisoners to dry off with dirty socks, a shortage of soap halted showers for some inmates, and incontinent men were put into diapers and received catheters that did not fit, causing them to soil their clothes and beds,” for instance. Nurses did not respond when called, as was the case when a bleeding man’s request for help went ignored. Moreover, prisoners were often expected to assist one another, as was the case when “one man in a wheelchair with emphysema” was told to transport another inmate confined to a wheelchair.

According to medical-receiver Clark Keslo, the unhealthy environment is largely attributed to a combination of limited staff members and overcrowding — a problem that persists in prisons throughout the state. The Stockton facility currently houses 1,299 inmates, and a second unopened, building contains 1,133 beds for future use. Staff shortages, however, results in the inability to monitor every inmate and administer proper care. Ironically, the California Health Care Facility was constructed, in part, to alleviate overcrowding in other prisons statewide.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California violated the Eighth Amendment by “[depriving] prisoners of basic sustenance, including adequate medical care…,” in 2011. Problems associated with overcrowding constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Last year, federal judges ordered the state to decrease its overcrowded prison population to 137.5 percent, or 10,000 people, by year’s end — a goal that was not achieved. At the time of the order, prison capacity exceeded 150 percent. Nevertheless, Governor Jerry Brown (D) has continually vocalized dissent and failed to comply. Despite evidence contradicting his claim, Brown insists that “the prison emergency is over,” and has proceeded to refuse calls from federal judges.

In addition to inhumane conditions, the Golden State’s prison system is an economic burden to the state. Each inmate costs California $45,000 per year, and in 2012, the state spent six times more on prisons than it did on college students.

This post originally appeared on ThinkProgress

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim V8 months ago

thanks for the article.

June Bostock
June Bostock2 years ago


Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush2 years ago

To Elaine A.:
In what kind of dream world have you been living?
Have you any idea, how many people go to prison, who don't belong there?
Keeping your nose clean, as you say, is foolish. I know NO ONE who hasn't done something in their life that couldn't be misconstrued as a crime, by someone 'out to get you'.

You must be wealthy or connected in some way to the right people. Heaven help you if the right or wrong person decided to watch your every move.

Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush2 years ago

Let's pretend for a minute that we don't care how these prisoners are treated.

Here's the problem.
Most of these prisoners will be released one day, and guess what will happen to any people they encounter?
If common sense doesn't get your attention, then you aren't paying attention.

Mind you, I'm not insinuating that horrific treatment is proper in the first place. Horrific treatment of most prisoners has already happened to them in the first place, probably during their childhood. Exasperating the problem serves no purpose, not for the predator or the victim.

With the exception of mental illness, no one is born to be a predator. If someone has found a predatory gene, let me know.

Rhonda Bird
Rhonda B2 years ago


Patty S.
Patty S2 years ago

...Dang! I got cut off... Bummer cause the ending was really good!

Patty S.
Patty S2 years ago

First, it is the responsibility of the Voter to decriminalize victimless crimes such as sales/possession of marijuana. Make your Vote count! The larger majority of a prison population did the crime that got them there...with very few exceptions. I know that there are 'elderly' within the prison walls. There are elderly people who have committed no crime beyond aging that live outside of prison...and there is no guaranteed money to take care of them, either. If they poop their pants they too, sit in it. I want to help the elderly who have not committed crimes first! 'We treat animals better', you say. Most animal shelters are run with minimum low-wage staff and armies of volunteers. I urge you to find ways to volunteer your time at your local prison if you want to 'Be' the difference. Teach them to read. They can't read because they thumbed their nose at public schooling. It wasn't their fault, they all have a 'story'. Pick worries cause they're probably all 'innocent'. Dear friends of mine were murdered in their home almost 30 years ago, their bodies found by their daughters...contemporaries of mine. In prison, one of the perpetrators of my friends death saves his feces to throw at the prison guards. That's charming. And what kind of people do you think become prison guards? Even if you had 'good intentions' going much abuse or disrespect would you have to take before you turned into 'one of them,' yet you walk on the other side of the

Sharon F.
Sharon F2 years ago

There are far toooooo many people in prisons and jails. What is wrong with the CA governor that he permits this abuse of his state citizens. The Corrections officials in all 50 states need to hear from citizens that there are too many people locked up in this country. Better to spend the $ to teach them to read, etc. Time to turn the page!

Jayme Talson
Jayme T2 years ago

Well i know that prison is not suppose to be some type of resort, but C'mon! A little basic human dignity goes along way!!

Ruhee B.
Ruhee B2 years ago

Well said Beth N. I'm sure lots of these prisoners do have mental health issues. They should be helped and treated with care. It's always the most vunerable in society that get treated appallingly. It's not right!