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June 26, 2005

State and Corrections Facility Sued

An advocacy group for the mentally ill based in Columbia, South Carolina has recently sued the state and corrections department in Columbia for the improper care of mentally ill inmates. They are asking the court to make the state design and pay for a sufficient system to help treat mentally ill inmates.

There have been studies of the prison system in the past that cited the fact that its treatment of the mentally ill was in need of some serious refurbishing. "But the state hasn't taken steps needed to address the concerns about care for 2,146 mentally ill inmates. Instead, the lawsuit said, the state is spending less money on prisons in general and not nearly enough to care for the mentally ill - 23 percent less in 2004 than in 2001" (Davenport, 2005).

The prison system lacks an adequate amount of full-time psychiatrists, which limits their ability to diagnose and treat the mentally ill within the walls of the prison. There are currently only 3 full time psychiatrists for a population of 23,000 inmates; they are supposed to have at least 14.

The lawsuit also stated that "Prison guards are inadequately trained to handle mentally ill inmates and use tear gas and pepper spray disproportionately on them. Mentally ill inmates end up confined in cells 23 hours a day for weeks or years and aren't allowed to attend rehabilitative or vocational programs. Medication is often delayed or not given and sometime discontinued altogether without consulting a psychiatrist" (Davenport, 2005).

Hopefully this lawsuit will change the prison system in South Carolina into a place where mentally ill patients can receive the treatment they need. A large portion of prison populations consist of the mentally ill which means that a large percentage of those in prison are not receiving the proper care that they deserve as human beings and as prison inmates.

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The source of this article was The Associated Press & Local Wire.


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