SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Department of Corrections indicated Monday it will consider appealing a federal judge’s order that the agency immediately provide sufficient staff and treatment to 12,000 mentally ill inmates, arguing that it has made significant strides in complying with a two-year-old lawsuit settlement.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mihm, in an order dated Friday , ruled that seriously mentally ill inmates are suffering “irreparable harm” from an agency Mihm has determined treats them with “deliberate indifference.”
“These are mentally ill individuals, who themselves are left, in a very real way, at the mercy of the IDOC to provide them with the constitutionally minimal level of health care,” Mihm wrote. “And this is simply not being done, and based on the record presented, will not be done unless there is a preliminary injunction issued by this Court.”
Mihm found “a state of emergency” in the prison system’s psychiatric care after a court-appointed monitor reviewing compliance last year found IDOC’s mental health care “grossly insufficient” and “oftentimes dangerous.” Continued noncompliance could eventually lead the judge to appoint a receiver to oversee required improvements.
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The state’s $1 billion-a-year prison system has been dogged by funding problems even before a two-year budget stalemate that ended last summer decimated it and many other state services.
But Corrections Department spokeswoman Lindsey Hess noted that the monitor also found “many significant improvements to the mental health care delivery system” in the prisons. She said he noted improved timeliness of mental health and suicide screenings, significantly reduced segregation time and increased time out of cells.
She also said the federal court had recognized areas where IDOC complied with the settlement, including opening a Joliet treatment center and constructing a residential treatment unit at the Dixon prison.
“We remain focused on our goal to ensure that mentally ill men and women receive the treatment that is essential to their well-being, rehabilitation and re-entry into society,” Hess said. “We continue to make adjustments in our day-to-day operations that balance safety, security, and the needs of our mentally ill population.”
Hess said corrections officials will consult the state attorney general to consider next legal steps.
The case is Rasho v. Walker .
Contact Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/john%20o’connor
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