Thursday, June 27, 2013

I applaud Judge Pratt's decision and for keeping the pressure on.   I have known of Judge Pratt for many years and her work at the county level.  I would like to think I, and my co-workers, educated her on the dismal state of mentally ill in prison.  Hopefully she will look at the private prisons as well.

The advocates of the mentally ill have warned the DOC about this for twenty years!

From the Indianapolis Star:

Indiana prison agency plans to centralize seriously mentally ill, add staff and programs 

The Indiana Department of Correction will add staff and increase treatment programs for seriously mentally ill inmates at a new facility that will be open by January, agency officials told a fed­eral judge Wednesday.

Details about the DOC’s plans for dealing with mentally ill prisoners placed in segregation for disciplinary or safety reasons came during a status hearing called by U.S. District Judge ­Tanya Walton Pratt.

The judge ruled in December that “mentally ill prisoners within the IDOC segregation units are not receiving adequate mental health care in terms of scope, intensity and duration,” and ­ordered the department to devise a plan to correct the shortcomings.

The judge’s ruling came after the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission and a group of inmates. Pratt found that conditions endured by seriously mentally ill prisoners held in segregation units constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.” She also found that the DOC was aware of concerns about its treatment of mentally ill prisoners and “has been deliberately indifferent,” contributing to the suicides of at least 11 mentally ill inmates held in segregation units from 2007 through July 2011.

The new plan will eliminate segregation units — where prisoners often spend 23 hours a day locked in isolation — at state prisons. Instead, the roughly 400 seriously mentally ill inmates who ­require segregation will be grouped in a remodeled section of the Pendleton Correctional Facility.
In addition to the consolidation, DOC will add custody and treatment staff, said Craig Hanks, the agency’s executive director for mental health and special populations. Prisoners also will spend less time in isolation, he said.

No cost estimate is available for the changes, said DOC Chief Financial Officer Andrew Pritchard.
“This is a really ambitious plan, and it sounds like we’re making progress,” Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana’s legal ­director, said after the hearing.

During the hearing, however, Falk ­expressed concerns that conditions for the majority of seriously mentally ill prisoners held in segregation have not changed since Pratt’s ruling.
Hanks admitted that, for many mentally ill prisoners held in those units, condi­tions and treatment have not ­improved.

Pratt asked DOC officials to provide her an update on the project in 90 days. She also requested a tour of the facilities at Pendleton.

At this time, the judge said, she sees no need to appoint a federal overseer to monitor the department’s progress ­toward compliance with her order.
“It does appear you are making prog­ress,” Pratt said.
But, she warned, the department cannot continue to subject prisoners to cruel and unusual punishment.

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