On August 6, 2015, Delaware's Community Legal Aid Society filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. The plaintiffs sued the Delaware Department of Correction under 42 U.S.C. §1983, the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Act, and the Declaratory Judgment Act. Represented by the ACLU and private counsel, the plaintiff sought declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief. The plaintiff claimed constitutionally inadequate treatment, housing, and care of mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement.
Specifically, the plaintiff claimed the state was confining prisoners with mental illness in solitary confinement without providing proper medical and mental health treatment for serious medical and mental health needs and without allowing adequate out-of-cell time. The complaint alleged that defendants failed to promptly acknowledge or provide the minimum appropriate care for mentally-ill prisoners, and instead exacerbated their illnesses.
On March 16, 2016, the Court [Gregory M. Sleet] denied defendant's motion to dismiss, except for Count II of the Complaint (Violation Of Article I, Section 11 Of The Delaware Constitution).
The parties engaged in settlement discussions and mediation with Judge Thynge. On August 31, 2016, the plaintiff submitted a proposed agreement and order. On September 1, 2016, Judge Sleet issued an order approving the agreement.
The agreement includes specific actions and policies for improving mental health care for inmates, improving conditions of confinement and other aspects of restrictive housing, and reducing the length of disciplinary sanctions and the use of other forms of restrictive housing. The specific actions include adopting a definition of serious mental illness, creating a mechanism to identify and record prisoners as mentally ill and review their required level of care, adhering to a policy requiring that care be provided in accordance with treatment plans, creating a special needs unit, providing training to security staff for working with mentally ill patients, implementing policies for offering prisoners five hours of unstructured recreation per week and increasing out-of-cell-time, among others. The defendant will pay the attorneys' fees. Unless otherwise agreed by the parties with approval of the court, the agreement and order shall terminate after five years.
A prisoner housed in solitary confinement during the litigation and agreement subsequently filed letters to Judge Sleet (January 30, 2017, February 10 and 14, 2017), motions for preliminary injunction (February 7 and 10, 2017), and a motion for a writ of mandamus (February 8, 2017). On February 13, 2017, Judge Sleet dismissed the motions and letters because the prisoner filing them was not a party to the case, and because the case was closed.Lakshmi Gopal - 05/14/2016
Julie Singer - 03/05/2017