The Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") and the larger U.S. government either purposely ignore the plight of men with serious mental illness in the federal prison system or maliciously act in violation of the law. I have no way of knowing which it is. In a complex system comprising many individual actors, motivations are most likely complex and contradictory. Either way, uncontrovertibly, the BOP and the U.S. government, against overwhelming evidence to the contrary, continuously assert that there are no men with serious mental illnesses housed in the federal supermax prison, the Administrative Maximum facility in Florence, Colorado, also known as ADX. Men and women with serious mental illnesses may not be constitutionally assigned to supermax confinement. Even BOP's own policies forbid the placement of anyone with a serious mental illness in the ADX. The government claims no one with a serious mental illness is in the ADX. Nonetheless, the place is full of men who by any definition have serious mental illnesses. Any thorough review of the 433 men at the ADX would demonstrate that about one-third of the men suffer a severe mental illness. The prison is filled with men who have been previously found unfit to stand trial, men who have long-standing histories of intensive psychiatric treatment, men who take antipsychotic medication, men who decorate their cells with their own feces, and men who mutilate their own bodies. After an investigation, the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and the law firm Arnold & Porter, LLP filed suit on behalf of several individuals and a putative class. The U.S. Department of Justice defends the status quo at the ADX and has moved to dismiss the entire lawsuit for failure to state a claim under the Eighth Amendment. As of this writing, it shows no intention of addressing the systemic failures that have led to so many men with serious mental illnesses being placed at the ADX.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons: Willfully Ignorant or Maliciously Unlawful?,
Mich. J. Race & L.
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