Representation For Mentally Ill Prisoners In Illinois Asking State To Fulfill Obligations

Representation For Mentally Ill Prisoners In Illinois Asking State To Fulfill Obligations

On Tuesday, lawyers representing 12,000 mentally ill prisoners in Illinois asked a federal judge in Peoria to force the state to meet its agreed obligations to provide them with adequate mental health care.

The state’s “deliberate indifference to serious medical need” constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, the inmates’ lawyers argue.

The filing comes a week after a court-appointed federal monitor advised state corrections officials by letter that poor psychiatric care continues to create a “state of emergency” in Illinois prisons.

The lawyers want U.S. District Judge Michael Mihm to enforce a settlement agreement reached in May 2016 with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration promising to overhaul mental health care in the prisons.

The court monitor, Dr. Pablo Stewart, a psychiatric consultant from San Francisco, credits the state Department of Corrections with making “substantial improvements” to its mental health care delivery system during that time.

But Stewart said those improvements have been undermined by the department’s “grossly insufficient and extremely poor quality of psychiatric services.”

Those services are “exceedingly poor and often times dangerous,” Stewart wrote.