Another case of entirely preventable tragedy, caused by incompetent and/or malicious D O C staff and “health care” workers. Cases like this, in prisons all over America, cost YOU, the taxpayer, BILLIONS of dollars annually!
Excerpts from the Article:
On February 24, 2020, the families of four Alabama state prisoners who committed suicide as they languished in isolation cells in the Alabama Department of Corrections (DOC) filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against DOC officials, Wexford Health Sources and MHM Correctional Services, the DOC’s contract providers of medical and mental health services. They alleged that a lack of mental health treatment and use of untrained and unsupervised mental health workers in the DOC led to their family members’ deaths.
Billy Lee Thornton, Ryan Rust, Matthew Holmes, and Paul Ford were DOC prisoners suffering from severe mental illness who were incarcerated in segregation cells prior to their suicides. During their incarceration, mental-health care for DOC prisoners was provided by MHM and Wexford (after mid-2018).
Prior to the four suicides, an Alabama federal court issued a remedial order and opinion in a civil rights lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center over conditions of mental health services “simply put … horrendously inadequate” and in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Briggs v. Dunn, 257 F.Supp.3d 1171 (M.D. Ala. June 27, 2017).
… the families of the four prisoners filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging the DOC ignored the remedial court order and allowed understaffing, overcrowding, and the use of untrained and unlicensed mental health care providers to effectively deny the prisoners in isolation mental-health care.
“The Alabama corrections officials named as defendants along with the mental healthcare providers even failed to comply with remedial mental health procedures to which they consented and agreed to have memorialized in federal court orders,” McGuire said. “The defendants can no longer rely on excuses such as staffing shortages and poor administrative discipline. They must now be held accountable for the deaths of humans who suffered so greatly from the state’s failure to provide adequate mental health care, that suicide appeared to them to be the only option. Meanwhile, these state defendants effectively stood idle—indifferent to the mental health needs of these desperate inmates—and over and over again, suicide was indeed the tragic result.”
According to court documents, the DOC is overcrowded at 175% of design capacity and understaffed by as much as 68% at some prisons. MHM and Wexford mental health care staff also was understaffed despite the 25% increase in the mental health caseload between 2008 and 2016. Further, DOC officials denied requests to increase the number of approved mental health care positions.
As of September 2016, the DOC had only half of its security positions filled. This resulted in the cancellation of mental health appointments and group activities—especially for segregation prisoners. Further, a lack of proper training led to many prisoners with serious mental illness being improperly classified as not mentally ill during intake, leading to them being segregated and disciplined.
All four prisoners had histories of serious mental illness and multiple suicide attempts. None were given treatment prior to their successful suicide attempts. One can only hope this lawsuit helps prevent further tragedies. See: Head v. Dunn, Case No. 2:20-cv-00132-SMD, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ala.).