Prison Mental Health Lawsuit Earns Class-Action Status

Nov 28, 2016

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson
Credit Lloyd Gallman / Montgomery Advertiser

Mentally ill inmates held in Alabama’s prisons may soon be receiving better care thanks to a federal court.

Late last week, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson awarded class action status to a lawsuit on behalf of prisoners allegedly receiving inadequate medical care from the Alabama Department of Corrections. That means whatever decision is reached will extend not just to the prisoners named in the lawsuit, but all of the nearly 25,000 prisoners currently incarcerated in Alabama Department of Corrections facilities.

In his ruling, Judge Thompson says prison mental health professionals knew and communicated they needed more staff to adequately care for inmates, but were denied funding due to a lack of resources. Thompson says that constitutes deliberate indifference of the needs of the inmates.

The lawsuit was filed in 2014 by a number of organizations including the Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program. It alleges the health care and mental health care provided in Alabama’s prisons fails to meet the constitutionally-guaranteed minimum.

The mental health portion of the case is set to go to trial on December 5.