On April 2, 2002, prisoners at the El Paso County Jail in Colorado Springs filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against El Paso County and its former and current sheriffs. The plaintiffs, represented by attorneys from the ACLU, ...
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On April 2, 2002, prisoners at the El Paso County Jail in Colorado Springs filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against El Paso County and its former and current sheriffs. The plaintiffs, represented by attorneys from the ACLU, alleged that the jail failed to protect and adequately provide for prisoners with serious mental health needs. When the lawsuit was filed, nine prisoners had died in the jail in recent years, and in the first year that the lawsuit was pending, two additional prisoners in the jail died from suicide. In almost every case, the deceased prisoner was suicidal, seriously mentally ill, or displaying symptoms of psychosis from overdose or withdrawal. Plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as class certification. Since the filing of the complaint, at least three separate reports by outside investigators have documented the inadequate state of mental health care in the jail: a report by a citizen's panel appointed by the Sheriff from October, 2002, a report by the National Institute of Corrections from May 26, 2003, and a report by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care from June 25, 2004.
On July 29, 2003, the District Court (Judge Richard P. Matsch) denied both the defendants' motion to dismiss and the plaintiff's motion for class certification. Shook v. El Paso County, 216 F.R.D. 644 (July 29, 2003). Plaintiffs appealed the denial of the class certification, and they won a ruling in the Tenth Circuit on October 18, 2004. Shook v. El Paso County., 386 F.3d 963 (10th Cir. 2004)
After the case returned to the district court, on April 1, 2005, the plaintiffs filed a Supplemental Complaint. Additional prisoners intervened as plaintiffs, and the plaintiffs filed a renewed motion for class certification. On June 28, 2006, Judge Matsch denied class certification a second time. Shook v. Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs of Cnty. of El Paso, No. CIV.A. 02CV00651RPM, 2006 WL 1801379 (D. Colo. June 28, 2006).
On September 22, 2006, Judge Matsch dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. The plaintiffs appealed again to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. On August 29, 2008, Judges Timothy M. Tymkovich, Neil M. Gorsuch, and Jerome M. Holmes of the Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Matsch's decision. Shook v. Bd. of Cnty. Commissioners of Cnty. of El Paso, 543 F.3d 597 (10th Cir. 2008). Jessica Kincaid - 02/03/2014