“The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) has the highest suicide rate in the nation, with most such deaths occurring in solitary confinement and solitary-like units,” according to a case summary in the legal fight.
There have been over 200 suicide attempts requiring hospitalization between the filling of the case and January 2019, NPR reported March 28. Thirty-one were completed suicides.
An investigation was launched by U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thomp- son on whether the state responded adequately to the suicide issue.
“prisoners with serial mental illnesses were routinely housed in solitary confinement and provided with a little to no mental health care”
This is the second investigation in five years for Alabama’s prisons over the constant suicide deaths in its overcrowded and understaffed prison system, the story noted.
The state’s responsibility for the many suicides has been the subject of a legal battle
since June 2014. The lawsuit challenges the conditions and treatment of the mentally ill inmates.
Thompson is hearing testimony in reference to the 15 suicides in 15 months.
The case summary says “prisoners with serial mental illnesses were routinely housed in solitary confinement and provided with little to no mental health care.”
Judge Thompson ruled in June 2017 that Alabama’s prison system violated inmates’ constitutional protections by practicing cruel and unusual punishment.
In his 302-page ruling, Thompson noted that repeated staff absences and lasting inmate overcrowding flooded the system.
Between other complete deficiencies, the judge found that Alabama’s prisons also failed in the following areas:
• Failed to identify prisoners with serious mental health needs and properly classify their needs.
• Failed to set up individualized treatment plans.
• Failed to provide qualified and properly supervised mental health staff.
• Failed to identify and treat inmates at risk of suicide.
• Continuously placed gravely mentally ill inmates in solitude without considering the repercussions of those circumstances.
Thompson concluded, “Simply put, ADOC’s mental health care is horrendously inadequate.”
Prison Commissioner Jefferson Dunn said overcrowding and understaffing retard reform. He added that Alabama will borrow $800 million to build four new prison facilities.