INDIANAPOLIS -- Weeks after a doctor at an Indiana prison determined a suicidal prisoner was experiencing "severe difficulty coping with segregation," the Indiana Department of Corrections placed the inmate back in a segregation unit.
Isolated for 23 hours a day in a cell not much larger than a closet at New Castle Correctional Facility, the inmate's mental state continued to deteriorate.
Two weeks later, he was dead -- one of at least 11 mentally ill inmates who committed suicide while in IDOC segregation units from 2007 through July 2011.
Now state officials and advocates are scrambling for solutions in the wake of a federal court ruling that found Indiana's treatment of mentally ill prisoners in segregation units violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
The decision was issued Monday by Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission and a group of inmates.
Pratt found "mentally ill prisoners within the IDOC segregation units are not receiving adequate mental health care in terms of scope, intensity, and duration."
The judge also noted IDOC was aware of concerns about its treatment of mentally ill prisoners and "has been deliberately indifferent."
Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana's legal director, hailed the ruling as a win not only for mentally ill inmates, but for all Indiana residents.