Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Southern Poverty Law Center Wins Major Case


The following statement was submitted by Richard Cohen, President of the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

We’ve just won a sweeping court victory for mentally ill prisoners in Alabama who are suffering horribly from neglect and abuse.

In a 302-page ruling this morning, U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson called the prison system’s mental health treatment “horrendously inadequate.”

You may recall that in February we finished a two-month trial that exposed shocking mistreatment – such as punishing prisoners for their mental illness by locking them away for long periods in solitary confinement cells.

One of our witnesses, who had been subjected to that kind of abuse, took his own life in prison just 10 days after testifying.

Citing the “abundant evidence” we presented, the judge ruled that Alabama is violating the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

It’s an incredibly important victory that strikes a blow against mass incarceration in our country.

Alabama has the country’s most overcrowded prison system. And the state relies on private, for-profit companies that put profits before the medical and mental health needs of prisoners.

This isn’t the end of the case. We’ve still got a long way to go.

First, we have to work with the judge and the state to reform this broken mental health care system.

Then, we’re going back to court – because our suit is also about inadequate medical care and the appalling lack of treatment that leads to needless suffering and death.

This case has required a massive effort involving thousands of exhibits and legal documents, interviews with hundreds of prisoners, and many months of preparation by my dedicated colleagues. Only an organization with the steadfast commitment of many thousands of supporters could have taken it on.

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