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Federal report criticizes harsh treatment of mentally ill inmates

[JURIST] The Office of the Inspector General for the US Department of Justice [official websites] issued a report [PDF] on Friday criticizing the Bureau of Prison's (BOP) [official website] treatment of inmates with mental illnesses. The report singles out [NPR report] a prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, having a pending lawsuit against it, alleging that the institution mistreated prisoners and denied adequate mental health services. According to the report, the BOP is violating its own recently implemented policy by keeping prisoners with mental illness in solitary confinement for too long and denying them medical treatment. The American Correctional Association [official website] recommends that solitary confinement cells be no smaller than 80 square feet, but those at Lewisburg are a mere 58.5 square feet. Prisoners who suffer from mental illness are confined with other afflicted inmates which often results in violent confrontations that cause serious injuries or death. The report also found that many who arrive at Lewisburg prison with mental disorders are denied treatment and medication. "We believe that the additional requirements established by the new policy, along with no increase in mental health staffing, resulted in institution mental health staffs reducing the number of [mentally ill] inmates, who are required to receive more frequent mental health care." According to NPR, the BOP's acting director agreed to conduct a "comprehensive review" of Lewisburg prison and adopt the recommendations provided by the report.

The increasing need to provide inmates with medical and legal services has been a significant issue of concern for quite some time. On Tuesday, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] ordered [JURIST report] that a Texas death-row inmate must be provided funds to build a defense against his impending execution. Earlier this month, William Morva was executed by lethal injection [JURIST report] after supporters failed to convince Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe [official website] to grant him clemency because of a mental illness. In June, the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that psychiatric assistance must be provided for indigent defendants sentenced to the death penalty.

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