A culture of punishment, combined with race- and class-based animus, has led the United States to rely on incarceration more heavily than any other country in the world.
Far too many prisoners are held in conditions that threaten their health, safety, and human dignity on a daily basis. The ACLU of Indiana has long fought in the courts for the protection of prisoner’s rights; monumentally through our representation of the Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission (IPAS) to defend the rights of mentally ill prisoners who were placed in isolation instead of being given the medical treatment that they needed. Mentally ill prisoners placed in isolation and deprived of adequate medical treatment experience hallucinations, depression and other symptoms.
This case fundamentally transformed the way seriously mentally ill prisoners are treated in state correctional facilities. The changes affected hundreds, if not thousands, of prisoners in Indiana who now receive better access to mental health care and who are no longer held without treatment in solitary confinement. Judge Tanya Walton Pratt said it well in the court's’ decision regarding IPAS: "A prison that deprives prisoners of adequate medical care is incompatible with the concept of human dignity."
The ACLU of Indiana also regularly protects the religious freedom and free speech of those who are incarcerated, recently through a case that advocates for prisoners to have access to kosher food.