On Oct. 1, 2008, the Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission (IPAS) filed a lawsuit on behalf of a group of prisoners with serious mental illness in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. IPAS, represented by the ACLU, proceeded under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC), asking the court for injunctive and declaratory relief. IPAS alleged that the Department of Corrections failed to adequately treat the prisoners in non-segregated and therapeutic environments, as required by the 8th Amendment, the ADA, and the Rehabilitation Act.
Specifically, IPAS claimed that mentally ill prisoners were regularly held in isolation at multiple prisons throughout the state, and, for a number of them, the only contact they had with mental health staff was through brief conversations at their cell doors. The continued confinement of these mentally ill prisoners without adequate mental health care, IPAS argued, violated the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the 8th Amendment. Additionally, by placing these prisoners in segregated and isolated confinement, the state discriminated against them in violation of the ADA and Rehabilitation Act.
IPAS is an agency created by Indiana state law pursuant to the federal Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act. It is charged with advocating for and protecting the rights and interests of, among other parties, individuals with mental illness. IPAS claimed in its complaint that, because of its unique role in protecting the interests of mentally ill adults in Indiana, it has standing to bring suit on their behalf.
On December 15, 2008, IDOC filed a motion to dismiss for lack of standing and jurisdiction; the state argued that IPAS's complaint presented only an "intramural" dispute between two state agencies, and should be resolved by the governor. On July 21, 2009, the court (Judge David F. Hamilton) denied IDOC's motion. It held that the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act empowered IPAS to sue on behalf of its mentally ill constituents; and the organization also satisfied the constitutional criteria for standing. The court also held that IPAS was not a traditional state agency and was independent of the governor. 642 F.Supp.2d 872.
On December 2, 2009, IPAS filed an amended complaint seeking class certification for all mentally ill prisoners in Indiana housed in settings that feature extended periods of isolation in cells. On April 27, 2010, the court (Magistrate Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson) granted IPAS's motion to certify the class.
On July 25, 2011, a bench trial commenced before Judge Tanya Walton Pratt; it lasted five days. On December 31, 2012, the court filed an entry following the bench trial. It found that segregation harms mentally ill prisoners in three ways: (1) the lack of social interaction itself creates problems associated with isolation; (2) the isolation involves significant sensory deprivation; and (3) the enforced idleness exacerbates the prisoners' symptoms of serious mental illness. The court went on to find that the mentally ill prisoners in IDOC segregation units do not receive minimally adequate mental health care, and IDOC has been deliberately indifferent regarding this care, in violation of the 8th Amendment. The court then scheduled a conference with both parties to establish an appropriate remedy to the constitutional violation.
From 2013-2016, the parties met to develop a plan for IDOC to remedy the constitutional violations found by the court. They entered status reports periodically throughout the years.
On January 2, 2016, the parties settled the case with a proposed private settlement agreement that awaits approval by the court after notice to the class. The agreement prohibited, with some exceptions, the confinement of seriously mentally ill prisoners in restrictive status housing or protective custody (i.e., solitary confinement). As a general rule, no prisoner who was seriously mentally ill would be placed into restrictive housing. The agreement defined severe mental illness to include people who entered solitary with less than severe mental illnesses but whose mental health deteriorated due to solitary. And, the agreement provided for "minimum adequate treatment" for these prisoners. IDOC also agreed to pay $585,000 in attorneys' fees. The agreement would last for three years.
The settlement agreement was set for a fairness hearing on March 18, 2016.Andrew Junker - 10/09/2014
Jessica Kincaid - 02/05/2016