On June 18, 2012, prisoners at ADX-Florence, a "Supermax" facility, filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado against the Federal Bureau of Prisons and certain BOP officials who are responsible for the operation of ADX. Represented by private counsel and the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendants had violated BOP policy and the Eighth Amendment by failing to properly diagnose and treat prisoners at ADX with serious mental illness. They sought injunctive relief requiring reform of the mental health care system at ADX, among other relief. (At the request of the first named plaintiff, he was withdrawn from the lawsuit and the caption adjusted accordingly.)
On April 23, 2013, Judge Richard P. Matsch denied the defendants' motion to dismiss but did dismiss two defendants who were being sued in the official capacity, finding their inclusion redundant.
Later in 2013, the parties began settlement discussions while undergoing discovery. Individual prisoners also file motions for preliminary injunctions and temporary restraining orders, which were denied by the court. On April 16, 2014, the proceedings were stayed for 60 days with the exception of written discovery, document production, and the continuing settlement conferences at the parties' request. The parties kept extending the stay until February 25, 2015.
On June 15, 2015, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. Discovery continued. On November 3, 2015, Judge Matsch held that the CLA had established standing to pursue claims for declaratory and injunctive relief for prisoners with mental illness housed at ADX.
The parties participated in settlement negotiations. On November 16, 2016, the plaintiffs moved, unopposed, for a ruling on preliminary approval of the settlement terms and the proposed notice to the class. On November 17, 2016, Judge Matsch issued an order granting the motion, and on December 19, 2016, he issued an order approving the settlement following a fairness hearing.
The settlement agreement contained negotiated substantive provisions regarding screening and diagnosis of mental illness, provision of mental health care, suicide prevention, and conditions of confinement to reduce the risk of the development or exacerbation of mental illness. Additionally, it stated that units for mental health treatment would be developed in Atlanta, Georgia, Allenwood, Pennsylvania, and Florence, Colorado. It laid out an extensive list of initiatives that will be undertaken at ADX, including using and enhancing an at-risk recreation program, creating group therapy facilities and private counseling areas, screening all inmates for mental illness, and taking steps to ensure access to treatment, among several other initiatives. It stated that the defendant will pay the attorneys’ fees. The obligations under the settlement were to be effective for three years, unless the plaintiffs consent to termination between two and three years or the court grants a one-time one-year extension.
On January 17, 2017, Judge Matsch issued a stipulated order certifying the settlement class and subclass and dismissing the action with prejudice, subject to the court’s retention of jurisdiction for enforcement. The court certified a screening class consisting of all people confined at ADX between the date of the order and the end of the compliance period, and a subclass consisting of all people confined at ADX between the date of the order and the end of the compliance period who have been diagnosed by the Bureau or its representative personnel or contractors with a covered mental illness.
In the fairness hearing, some members of the class raised two objections: that the prisoners should receive money damages, and that someone should be held accountable for their conditions of confinement. On January 25, 2017, one plaintiff submitted a notice of appeal, but on February 7, 2017, he voluntarily withdrew his appeal. On February 13, 2017, another plaintiff submitted a notice of appeal, and on February 14 he filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
As of February 28, 2017, the appeal (17-1054) is ongoing.Denise Heberle - 06/19/2012
Jessica Kincaid - 02/13/2016
Julie Singer - 03/05/2017