ACLU, Protective Services Gain Increased Access To Prisons' Mentally Ill As Part of Settlement

Jan 28, 2016

Credit Kate Ter Haar / https://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/

The ACLU and Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services will get increased access for monitoring the treatment of mentally ill inmates at state prisons. That’s part of the terms of a settlement the groups reached with the Department of Corrections.

Complete isolation for days or weeks can exacerbate mental illnesses, or even cause them. Now those inmates will not be placed in solitary confinement, instead getting regular screenings by prison staff and therapy.

Roughly a quarter of state inmates have a mental illness. But those inmates were making up a much larger percentage of solitary confinement when the ACLU and IPAS sued the Department of Corrections in 2008.

A judge ordered the sides to strike an agreement. ACLU Attorney Ken Falk is among those that worked three years on the settlement.

“We were moving an ocean liner,” Falk says. “We were changing, really, really radically changing how this population is being treated.”

DOC officials say they can’t comment on the settlement yet – the agreement is pending court approval. But Falk praises the DOC, saying it has already made great strides to change how it houses the mentally ill.