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Stopping the abuse of mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement

For the approximately 450 mentally ill prisoners currently kept in isolation in Indiana prisons, conditions include spending 23 hours a day or more alone in their cells, with little to no access to treatment. This often results in significant worsening of symptoms and illness, including hallucinations, increased paranoia and depression, and self-harm – even suicide. In fact, since 2007, nearly 50 percent of inmate suicides within the Indiana Department of Correction system were committed by mentally ill offenders who were being segregated, often in isolation, from other inmates.

Prisoners' mental health issues should be addressed while they are incarcerated.

In July 2011, the ACLU of Indiana brought a case to trial on behalf of Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services and a class of inmates with serious mental illnesses. After the week-long trial, federal judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled that prison segregation was cruel and unusual punishment, unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. The ruling not only benefited the inmates who brought the lawsuit but potentially thousands of prisoners across the state. Indiana has more than 1,600 segregation beds in 14 facilities, including at a psychiatric unit at the New Castle Correctional Facility.

The ACLU of Indiana is awaiting the remedy on this case.