Federal Judge: Alabama Department of Corrections Has Provided Horrendously Inadequate Mental Health Care

There’s a problem with health and dental care in Alabama jails, and one federal judge is looking for more answers.

Back in June, U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson issued a ruling based on a 302-page document that explained situations in which the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) has failed to maintain an adequate health care system. Thompson believes that in some areas, the prisoners have been denied their constitutional rights to access health care, especially in cases concerning mental health. So now, with help from the ADOC, he is looking to find a solution.

The lawsuit, Braggs Et. All V. Jefferson Dunn, Et. All, was filed by the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program and explains how the ADOC has “systematically put the health and lives of prisoners at risk by ignoring their medical and mental health needs and discriminating against prisoners with disabilities.”

They go on to explain the ADOC has one of the largest prison mortality rates in the country and that county officials aren’t doing anything about it. The lawsuit describes some situations in which prisoners were subjected to discrimination and dangerous conditions.

For example, a prisoner was given a blood test indicating that his prostate cancer had returned. No follow-up test was given until about a year and a half later, which was when they discovered the cancer spread to his bones and was terminal. The prisoner died. There is also the policy against testing for hepatitis C. In 2014, 2,280 prisoners had been diagnosed but only seven received treatment. Another prisoner was stabbed 15 times with an ice pick, but his wounds weren’t cleaned or treated. He was only placed in segregation for three months.

With these cases in mind, Thompson is looking to host a series of evidentiary hearings as a way to gain more insight on what exactly is happening in the jail cells. There would be a number of these hearings, covering things like level of care and segregation, the action of making prisoners take medicine against their will, whether incarcerated people with disabilities are being treated properly, and whether consent is being monitored properly. Additionally, they would look into whether adequate dental care is being offered, such as providing dental implants, a common procedure that 3 million people have already gone through nationwide.

As of the date of publication, the date for these hearings has not been set.