Judge: Psychiatric care unconstitutional in Alabama prisons

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – A federal judge says Alabama is failing to provide constitutionally adequate psychiatric care for state inmates.

A 302-page decision released Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson comes in a lawsuit over the state’s treatment of prisoners with mental problems. Thompson calls the system “horrendously inadequate” and is ordering a new round of meetings to discuss a remedy.

The state has denied inmates receive inadequate mental health treatment. Commissioner Jeff Dunn sent out the following statement:

This order will require a broader conversation with our state leadership about how we can responsibly address the challenges facing the department.  While portions of the trial focused upon issues related to mental health care, it also highlighted many of the other challenges facing the department like our outdated facilities and our long-standing needs in the area of security.  We look forward to having an open and frank conversation with our state leadership about how to make meaningful investments into our department to ensure the safety of our staff, the security of our facilities and the well-being of those in our care.”

Lawyers for inmates say they’re reviewing the decision and will comment later.

Thompson presided over a trial focusing on the psychiatric treatment of troubled inmates in Alabama prisons. One of the inmate witnesses killed himself days after testifying, prompting the state to agree to new suicide prevention methods while the trial continued.

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