October 13, 2006
KALAMAZOO, MI- At
a hearing tomorrow before U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Enslen, the
American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project and two Ann Arbor civil
rights attorneys will argue that some of the state's oldest and largest prisons
do not meet constitutional standards for medical and mental health care, and
that Patricia Caruso, Director of the Department of Corrections, should be held
in contempt for the Defendants' non-compliance with court orders to improve
The ACLU is seeking to expand the case of
Hadix v. Caruso
against several prisons in Jackson, Michigan to include mental
health care. Recently a court-appointed monitor of medical services in the
prison system, Robert Cohen, M.D., reported his findings in the August 2006
death of a 21-year-old man who had a long history of mental illness. Cohen
reported that the prisoner died shortly after being released following four days
in full restraints, and no physician knew that he was actively psychotic.
No psychiatrist was consulted at any point, according to Cohen.
Elizabeth Alexander, director of the ACLU National Prison Project
said, "It is critical to explore why and how this man's sentence became a death
"Mental health care in these prisons
must be improved significantly to prevent any more avoidable deaths," added
Michael Barnhart, a longtime civil rights attorney.
tomorrow's arguments, the ACLU and their co-counsel will argue that prison
officials should not be allowed to use in-cell mechanical restraints outside of
medical settings; that they must require medical and psychiatric evaluations of
restrained prisoners, and they must develop protocols for the use of
restraints. Officials must assure that prisoners have access to necessary
mental health staff and more closely monitor the needs of prisoners in
segregation with mental illnesses.
ACLU attorneys will also address
concerns about medical services at several Jackson prisons. They will
argue that prison officials should be held in contempt for their non-compliance
with several of the court's previous requirements to improve medical
services. These orders have not been followed and further orders
protecting prisoners' lives and health are necessary.
Patricia Streeter, also a longtime civil rights lawyer, "Until the Department of
Corrections addresses these deficiencies, prisoners in Jackson will continue to
be at risk of unnecessary suffering and death."