Southern Poverty Law Center recent filing against ADOC points to string of suicides behind bars

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Wednesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center submitted a filing notifying the court of 7 inmate suicides dating back to May of 2019. Braggs v. Dunn is a federal lawsuit challenging unconstitutional healthcare in Alabama’s prison system

Previously, the Alabama Department of Corrections agreed in federal court to work on 12 different elements of their healthcare program/practices. The SPLC is formally notifying the federal government that they believe ADOC is not making progress.

Since the Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit in 2014, more than 200 inmates have been hospitalized following suicide attempts. More than 30 have died.

Federal Distrit Judge Myron H. Thompson previously issued an opinion saying “Simply put, ADOC`s mental-health care is horrendously inadequate.”

The SPLC says the most recent suicide came after an inmate with documented mental health issues spent 796 straight days in segregation.

“The science and the common sense on the impact of segregation and isolation is very clear,” said Ebony Howard, a Senior Supervisong Attorney for SPLC.

Howard says inmates with mental health needs are going without treatment accompanied by prolonged time in isolation without the chance to rehabilitate.

“Take that same person who has a preexisting mental health disorder and put them in segregation for long periods of time with inadequate treatment, food, everything. Imagine what that does with their headspace,” said Howard.

The SPLC says inmates facing mental health issues return to communities from prison more damaged than when they left. More than 1,000 Alabama inmates are in segregation. Howard says inmates acquire mental health problems from segregation.

“This lack of treatment is on top of punishment. This is abuse. These are constitutional violations,” said Howard.

Braggs v Dunn is an active case with a hearing coming up in September. ADOC has federal court directives to improve 12 different aspects of its health system.

The U.S. Department of Justice has issued two reports alleging continued cruel and unusual punishment against prisoners in the ADOC system.

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