ACLU Lawsuit Against Michigan Department of Corrections Resumes Today

April 28, 2008 12:00 am

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Inadequate Mental Health Care Puts Prisoners Lives At Risk

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KALAMAZOO, MI – The American Civil Liberties Union is arguing today in a Michigan federal court that Michigan Department of Corrections officials must provide necessary mental health care services to newly-admitted and other prisoners.

Today’s appearance in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, the latest chapter in the highly publicized case Hadix v. Caruso, comes nearly two years after a 21-year-old man with a long history of mental illness, including active mental psychosis, died from a lack of medical and mental health care at the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility in Jackson after being left unattended for four days in full, four-point restraints. The case was featured on 60 Minutes in February 2007.

“Unfortunately, the well-publicized deaths of several prisoners have yet to lead to fundamental changes,” said Elizabeth Alexander, Director of the ACLU National Prison Project and lead counsel in the case. “We continue to see prisoners suffer needlessly because the Department of Corrections fails to identify and treat large numbers of prisoners with serious mental health needs.”

The ACLU is seeking a court order from U.S. District Court Judge Robert. J. Jonker that would require Michigan correctional officials to cure the ongoing failures to identify and treat serious mental illnesses among the prisoner population, the fragmented and dysfunctional ways that mental health care services are organized, and the inadequate supervision provided to poorly qualified staff. Along with Alexander, civil rights attorneys Patricia Streeter of Ann Arbor and Sandra Girard of Lansing are co-counsels in the case.

“Because most prisoners return to their homes after their sentences, the public should demand that the state provide the treatment these men desperately need,” Streeter said. “This is not optional. It is a matter not only of constitutional obligations but sound public policy.”

Correctional officials in Michigan have previously been ordered to enhance their death review process, obtain autopsy reports for all deaths, assure prompt follow-up of examinations performed on inmates by outside specialists and expand medical staffing.

More information on the ACLU lawsuit Hadix v. Caruso can be found at:

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