prison mental health

Alabama's prison system is facing a hearing on how it provides mental health services to inmates.

Al.com reports U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson has ordered a hearing in Montgomery later today on why the Alabama Department of Corrections should not be held in contempt of court for failing to meet deadlines for increasing mental health staffing.

Thompson ruled last year that mental health care in Alabama prisons was "horrendously inadequate" and violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

An Alabama prison official testified in federal court yesterday that a now-dead prisoner was placed on mental health observation, rather than suicide watch, despite a previous attempt to kill himself.

Warden Cynthia Stewart of Holman Correctional Facility near Atmore also testified that the inmate did not receive wellness checks as frequently as a court order demanded.

Alabama’s prison system is on trial once again starting today.

The next phase of hearings regarding health and mental health care for Alabama state inmates begins today in Montgomery. Back in June, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled the system was “horrendously inadequate” and had to change. These hearings are all about how Alabama’s Department of Corrections plans to make those changes.

The deadline is looming for Alabama’s correctional officials to tell a federal judge how they plan to overhaul mental health care in state prisons.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson has scheduled a status conference for September 7 to get an update on the mediation between the state of Alabama and lawyers representing Alabama inmates.

James McWilliams
ADOC

The U.S. Supreme Court has come down in favor of an Alabama inmate who argued he didn’t have a mental health expert at his trial to help him try and avoid a death sentence.

The justices divided 5 to 4 yesterday, ultimately siding with Alabama death row inmate James McWilliams. He did not have an independent mental health expert on his side when he was convicted of raping and killing a convenience store clerk in Tuscaloosa.

An Alabama senator says the federal government should cover most of the cost of caring for county jail inmates with mental illnesses.

Sen. Cam Ward, a Republican from Alabaster, says counties currently pay for the entirety of detainees' psychiatric health care. He has introduced a bill that would shift 70 percent of those costs to the federal government under the Medicaid system.

The legislation would also allow county inmates to resume federal mental health care benefits immediately after release.

Tutwiler Prison
Dave Martin / AP

The Alabama Department of Corrections has agreed to put new suicide prevention measures in place after an inmate killed himself days after testifying on alleged inadequate mental health care in state prisons.

Dr. Kathryn Burns
Tom Dodge / Columbus Dispatch

The chief psychiatrist for Ohio’s state prison system says Alabama fails to spot mental illness in many of its inmates and lacks the mental health staff to effectively treat those who are diagnosed.

Al.com reports Dr. Kathryn Burns testified yesterday as an expert witness on behalf of inmates suing Alabama's correctional system.

Burns says the percentage of inmates identified as mentally ill in Alabama — about 14 percent — is about half that seen in other states. She says that suggests many mentally ill prisoners aren’t being counted.