Alabama must provide both immediate and long-term fixes in its mental health care for inmates, says U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in a case brought by mentally ill prisoners.
A federal judge ruled in favor of groups who say Alabama provides constitutionally inadequate mental-health care for inmates in its prisons, reports Al.com. The plaintiffs are seriously mentally ill state prisoners and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP). , which represents mentally ill prisoners in Alabama. “Surprisingly, the evidence from both sides … extensively and materially supported the plaintiffs’ claim,” said U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in Montgomery. He cited testimony from Corrections Commissioner Jefferson Dunn and Associate Commissioner of Health Services Ruth Naglich. “The court emphasizes that given the severity and urgency of the need for mental-health care explained in this opinion, the proposed relief must be both immediate and long term,” Thompson said.
Some 3,400 inmates receive some sort of mental health care in state prisons. Of the 15 major Alabama Department of Corrections facilities, three are considered treatment hubs for mentally ill inmates. “Even when identified, mentally ill prisoners receive significantly inadequate care… [the state] does not provide hospital-level care for those who need it,” Thompson said in a ruling issued yesterday. Bill Van Der Pol of the disabilities advocacy group said evidence showed that the state’s procedure for administering involuntary mental health medication was unconstitutional. He said some 40 to 60 inmates are involuntarily medicated at any given time. Dunn testified that the state’s ability to provide mental health care in prisons is affected by overcrowding and a short staff.