University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Out-of-court Memorandum of Understanding Between the Oregon Department of Corrections and Disability Rights Oregon PC-OR-0013
Docket / Court NA ( No Court )
State/Territory Oregon
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
In May 2015, Disability Rights Oregon, a non-profit organization, released the results of an investigation about the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) at the Oregon State Penitentiary. In the report, the DRO concluded that adults in custody at the BHU were routinely isolated in their cells for 23 hours ... read more >
In May 2015, Disability Rights Oregon, a non-profit organization, released the results of an investigation about the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) at the Oregon State Penitentiary. In the report, the DRO concluded that adults in custody at the BHU were routinely isolated in their cells for 23 hours a day without timely access to mental health care and that mental-health related behaviors were often dealt with through unnecessary force for lack of more proactive responses.

As a response to the DRO's report, the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) conducted a comprehensive review of BHU that included consultation with a nationally-recognized expert. Following that review, DOC and DRO engaged in discussions about improvements to BHU, which were incorporated into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), or an unofficial but public agreement.

ODOC and DRO signed the MOU on January 8, 2016.

The MOU, among many things, provided for over 20 hours of guaranteed time a week out of their cells for those held in the BHU. Ten hours of this time would include classes and treatment programs, and ten hours would be unstructured, allowing for out-of-cell meals, phone calls and physical exercise. Other key components of the agreement included making good-faith efforts to hire and retain “sufficient” mental health staff, ensuring “reasonable access to a psychiatric provider,” and improving training of security and clinical staff to deal “with adults in custody with mental illness, including interviewing techniques, medication side effects, and crisis intervention.” [Document 1 in the Clearinghouse]

ODOC also committed to provide DRO with periodic reports regarding the data in the BHU, such as unusual incident reports, disciplinary reports, frequency of group therapy sessions, suicide watches and serious self-injurious behavior, and more.

After reviewing the period reports, DROC agreed to contact ODOC and the Oregon Department of Justice to explore the collaborative development of an improvement plan if the ODOC’s plan is failing to produce the desired effect.

The agreement provided for 48 of review by DROC, with the memorandum ending in January of 2018.

Susie Choi - 02/08/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Content of Injunction
Hire
Monitoring
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Preliminary relief granted
Recordkeeping
Reporting
Required disclosure
Training
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
disability, unspecified
General
Conditions of confinement
Excessive force
Recreation / Exercise
Rehabilitation
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Medical/Mental Health
Intellectual/Developmental Disability
Medical care, general
Mental health care, general
Self-injurious behaviors
Suicide prevention
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Out-of-court
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action
Defendant(s) State of Oregon
Plaintiff Description Disability Rights Oregon
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2016 - 2018
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Cruel Confinement: Abuse, Discrimination and Death Within Alabama's Prisons
Date: Jun. 4, 2014
(Southern Poverty Law Center )
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Memorandum of Understanding Between the Oregon Department of Corrections and Disability Rights Oregon
PC-OR-0013-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 01/08/2016
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Oregon Department of Corrections Agrees to Reduce Isolation and Improve the Care of Seriously Mentally Ill Adults in Custody in the Behavioral Health Unit
PC-OR-0013-0002.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 01/13/2016
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel

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