Pa. to Offer Better Treatment to Mentally Ill Inmates
Mentally ill Pennsylvania inmates will be put in special treatment units instead of isolated cells when they misbehave, under the terms of a lawsuit settlement between the Corrections Department and the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania.
The settlement between the Corrections Department and the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, which sued the state in federal court in March 2013, potentially affects about 4,000 prisoners who are considered seriously mentally ill, the department said. There are nearly 51,000 inmates in the state prison system.
The advocates said the agreement will end “a Dickensian nightmare” in which mentally ill inmates written up for misconduct were confined in small restricted cells for 23 hours a day for months or even years, trapped in “an endless cycle of isolation and punishment” that often exacerbated their symptoms and caused them to harm themselves.
A monitor will be appointed to oversee the agreement, which will be enforced from two to five years, depending on the state’s compliance.