The plaintiff is a prisoner with mental illness incarcerated at a "super max" facility of the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City. On May 3, 2010, he filed this suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, against the Colorado Department of Corrections. He alleged violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act. The prisoner, filing pro se, alleged that defendants denied him numerous privileges afforded to other prisoners due his disability by placing him in segregation for over a decade and not allowing him to experience daylight, fresh air, or outdoor exercise. Further, the prisoner alleged that defendants denied him appropriate treatment for serious mental health issues. In the alternative, the prisoner alleged that defendants punished him for his actual or perceived disability-related behavior without reasonable accommodations. He alleged that the prison made him ineligible for early release credits due to an arbitrary demerit system that punishes his improperly treated mental illness without notice of what behaviors he was charged with, and without sufficient procedures for review.
On May 25, 2010, defendants moved to dismiss the case, and the district court (Daniel, J.) denied the motion. On March 26, 2012 Judge Brooke Jackson denied summary judgment on the merits, allowing the case to proceed to bench trial. The trial occurred between April 30 and May 8, 2012. On August 24, 2012, Judge Jackson released his final order and judgment. 887 F.Supp.2d 1133. The court stated: "denial of any opportunity to be outdoors and to engage in some form of outdoor exercise for a period of 12 years is a serious deprivation of a human need" and is "a paradigm of inhumane treatment." Because the court found a violation of the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment, it entered judgment in favor of the plaintiff, and ordered that the CDOC must develop and present a plan that ensures plaintiff has access for at least one hour, at least three times per week, to outdoor exercise. The court also ordered that defendants assign a CDOC psychiatrist to evaluate the plaintiff's mental health treatment needs, and noted that the formulary list could not appropriately be a bar to the plaintiff's receiving whatever medication the psychiatrist deems appropriate. Because the disciplinary system had changed by trial, the court ruled in favor of the defendants to give their new policy a chance. However, the judge wrote in his opinion that if the new system proved to be "form over substance, [the plaintiff] knows where to find me." The court found that the plaintiff largely prevailed, and therefore awarded costs and attorney's fees to the plaintiff.
The plaintiff made subsequent motions: to alter or amend the judgment (September 21, 2012), for post-judgment discovery (November 16, 2012), and to enforce the settlement agreement regarding attorneys’ fees (July 15, 2013). Judge R. Brooke Jackson granted the motion for discovery (January 2, 2013), and denied the other motions without prejudice (September 4, 2013). Also on September 4, 2013, the court found that the exercise cells being used at Sterling did not amount to an acceptable permanent solution for providing an opportunity to exercise. It also found that there was uncertainty about how the mental health treatment issue was being resolved, as it was unclear whether there was inadequate treatment available or whether the plaintiff was refusing to accept available treatment.
Per the parties’ request, the court permitted them to engage in settlement discussions. The parties received several time extensions from the court until the court made clear that they would not continue to grant extensions forever.
On September 12, 2014, the plaintiff moved to enforce the judgment and further relief or, in the alternative, for a hearing on the order to show cause by the plaintiff. Although the plaintiff had been given a more substantial opportunity to exercise and access to mental health treatment, he was concerned that he would not be provided these services in the future.
On April 7, 2015, the court issued an order denying plaintiff’s motion. 2015 WL 1593884. The court noted that the plaintiff had been permitted to exercise outside since July, 2014, and that in June, 2014, a psychologist at the facility put a treatment plan in place for him. The court expressed its confidence in the Department of Corrections leaders’ commitment to following through on the policy changes made in the prison.
While the case has not been officially closed, the docket as of February 27, 2017 has had no activity since the April 2015 order. Emily Goldman - 10/12/2012
Julie Singer - 02/27/2017