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Alabama's Prisoners: Our Mental Health Care Pleas Are Unanswered

By Christie Abagon , Dec 05, 2016 11:34 PM EST
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Inmates filed a lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Corrections and its mental health care provider, MHM Services, Inc.  The non-jury trial will last for almost two months.  The outcome would affect not just the prisoners in Alabama, but those of the rest of the US as well.    The inmates allege that the violation and cruelty they experience are a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Mentally-Ill Inmates Are Locked Alone In Cells

 

Lawyers of the inmates say that Alabama provides minimal mental health services aside from medication, which are sometimes forced to inmates against their will.   Mentally-ill inmates are locked alone in cells; violence and suicide attempts are untreated with so few medical staff doing cell-front visits. 

Maria Morris, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the groups representing inmates, said: "We think we will be able to prove that the mental health care being provided to prisoners in the Alabama Department of Corrections is not up to the very minimal standards required by the Constitution."

Number Of Suicide Attempts Significantly Increased

In 2010, there were six suicide attempts, and last year, the number increased to 54.  In 2015, six inmates died from suicide - the highest since 2007.

Craig Haney, an expert witness for plaintiffs, said in an report:  "I have witnessed things in the ADOC including truly abysmal conditions and shocking levels of neglect and maltreatment of vulnerable and desperately mentally ill prisoners- that I have rarely if ever seen in some 40 years of doing this kind of work, including some things that I am not sure I would have believed if I had not witnessed them firsthand."

The federal trial will begin Monday before U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, and is a part of a larger lawsuit filed by inmates in 2014 over medical care.

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