Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Inmates File Suit Over Lack of Psychiatric Care

Several federal prisoners with serious mental illness have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons charging that counter to regulations, they have been held in one of the country's "supermax" prisons and have not been provided with needed psychiatric care, including psychotropic medications. Four of the prisoners, according to a June 24 Washington Post report, were transferred to the maximum security prison in Florence, Colo., after the District of Columbia's prison in Lorton, Va., was shuttered in 2001. So-called supermax prisons are designed for extreme levels of security to house prisoners considered security threats or who have committed violent crimes while in other prisons. They are usually held in isolation cells and only have an hour or often less for exercise or other activities per day.

Edward Aro, one of the lawyers who filed the suit along with the inmates, is quoted as saying that the Bureau of Prisons "turns a blind eye to the needs of the mentally ill at [the Colorado prison] and to the deplorable conditions of confinement that are inhumane to these prisoner." The Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on the suit, but issued a statement saying it does not send mentally ill prisoners to the supermax facility. However, the Post cited, for example, the case of one of the plaintiffs, a convicted murderer, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and alleges that he has not received medication for the disorder in his 11 years at the Colorado prison. "Instead, he has access to therapy classes on television and anger-management pamphlets."

To read about how mental illness is dealt with in the criminal justice system, see Psychiatric News here and here.

(image: Max Photo/Shutterstock.com)


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