In November, a federal judge made a finding that the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has failed to meet the needs of its mentally ill prison population. Close to a third of the state's inmates is thought to have a mental illness, so it is critical that they receive the necessary care and attention while they are incarcerated.
After a lawsuit was filed in 2007 by former IDOC inmates, the state entered into a settlement agreement in 2016. As part of the settlement, the state was required to meet 25 requirements with regard to its treatment of inmates with mental illness. According to a monitor, the state failed to meet 18 of these 25 requirements. While there has been some important progress, the state is clearly not holding up its end of the bargain when it comes to improving care for inmates.
One of the important issues that were brought to light was the need for adequate staffing. As part of the settlement, IDOC was required to hire a significant number of mental health personnel to provide better services to the inmates. IDOC failed to do so meaning that many inmates with mental illness were not receiving the proper oversight and care. IDOC has faced challenges in hiring adequate staff to work in the prison system. The state is currently short on the 65 psychiatrists it was required to hire and cites challenges in recruitment and retention as a source of the problem.
IDOC has also faced problems with medication management, ensuring timely evaluations and treatment plans, and putting plans in place to deal with inmates in crisis. The judge found that a lack of proper monitoring of psychotropic medication created a dangerous situation for the inmates. He also found that mentally ill inmates in segregation fare worse than those in the general population. While IDOC has taken some steps, it is clear that further improvements are essential.
Treatment of Inmates with Mental Illness
This ruling by a federal judge comes months after an incidentinvolving an IDOC inmate named Larry Earvin. Mr. Earvin, who had schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, died weeks after an altercation with prison guards. Mr. Earvin died from blunt abdominal trauma, and an investigation into the incident is ongoing. IDOC had a responsibility to ensure, not only that their employees acted appropriately, but that Mr. Earvin received all necessary treatment for his mental health conditions.
If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental illnesses. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.