SPLC asks judge to rule Alabama’s prison system in contempt over mental health staffing

Prison Jail

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is asking U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson to hold the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) in contempt for failing to meet deadlines for increasing mental health staffing.

“Adequate staffing is critical to address the mental health needs and secure the safety of the prisoners in ADOC’s care,” said Maria Morris, senior supervising attorney at the SPLC. “Time and time again, ADOC has failed to meet court-ordered deadlines to fill essential staffing positions. We have no confidence that ADOC is doing all it can to hire enough staff to care for prisoners with mental illnesses. We are asking the court to rule ADOC in contempt for continuing to fail to meet these court-ordered deadlines.”

In the summer of 2017, Thompson ruled Alabama’s psychiatric care of state inmates is “horrendously inadequate” and in violation the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In February, he set deadlines in May, June and July for increasing mental health staff, which the ADOC has failed to do. On Friday, Thompson issued an order requesting a hearing to begin Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Montgomery, Ala. to give ADOC the opportunity to show they should not be held in contempt.

Parties ruled to be in contempt can face fines and, in some cases, jail time. SPLC is asking here that a monitor be appointed to oversee how ADOC is progressing and to keep the Court and the Plaintiffs informed.