On July 20, an advocacy group representing prisoners in Louisiana filed a federal lawsuit alleging negligence against the Louisiana Department of Corrections and the David Wade Correctional Center in Homer, Louisiana. The lawsuit alleges that many prisoners are subject to abuse via the institutions failing to provide proper mental health care services and using solitary confinement in place of proper mental health treatment.
Prisons as Mental Health Facilities?
Sadly, prisons today serve a dual role, also housing individuals with mental health issues who could not get assistance elsewhere. According to the Bureau of Justice, more than 50% of prisoners have symptoms and/or a history of mental illness, and many of these conditions involve serious mental illness, such as psychiatric disorders with functional disabilities.
For those prisoners who suffer from mental health illnesses, providing care for these illnesses is a basic necessity in order to provide for basic human rights and protect them, as wards of the federal government, from harm. Unfortunately, these services are often woefully deficient, and many ill patients not only fail to receive proper treatment, but in some circumstances, they are victims of abuse.
Louisiana correctional facilities are unfortunately notorious for this, not only having one of the worst incarceration rates in the world, but in having people with mental health problems that do not necessarily belong in jail but simply end up there because of a lack of mental health treatment facilities. Many of them are returning prisoners serving long sentences for nonviolent crimes.
Solitary Confinement and Isolation
One of the allegations in the Louisiana lawsuit is that solitary confinement was inappropriately used. Prisoners with mental illness are often segregated from the general prison population by being placed in separate, isolated units. In many instances, continued misconduct often keeps them there indefinitely. And yet, prolonged solitary confinement like this can be severely harmful to prisoners, especially those with mental illnesses, and can provoke existing mental health issues.
In every class action challenging the placement of mentally ill prisoners in this type of confinement, those bringing litigation have either won a court order or obtained a settlement prohibiting or significantly limiting this type of confinement.
The lawsuit also includes claims that mentally ill prisoners were forced to bend down and bark like dogs to get food, and were punched, kicked, and sprayed with mace and bleach at the David Wade Correctional Center.
Personal Injury Attorneys Serving Louisiana
Personal injury litigation is not just relegated to car accidents or hospitals that involve negligence; a federal institution that neglects and/or abuses prisoners can be held negligent for its actions.
At Harrell & Nowak, we have spent years litigating against bad actors like these here in Louisiana who place members of the public in harm’s way. Contact us today for a free consultation and find out how we can help you.