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Department of Corrections Sued over Inmate Abuse at the Dade Correctional Institution

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 9, 2014

TALLAHASSEE

Florida Institutional Legal Services Project, Disability Rights Florida, and Holland & Knight, LLP, have filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida against the Florida Department of Corrections, Department of Corrections Secretary Michael Crews, and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. The lawsuit alleges unlawful abuse and discrimination of prisoners who are mentally ill and confined to the inpatient mental health unit at Dade Correctional Institution (Dade CI).

The lawsuit further alleges systematic and regular abuse and discrimination, including brutality, deprivation of food, and physical and verbal harassment by Dade CI correctional officers against inmates with serious mental illness. Moreover, the lawsuit alleges mental health treatment staff employed by Wexford failed to report the abuses happening to their mentally ill patients. Plaintiffs assert that defendants knew about the widespread and systemic abuse, but refused to intervene.

"The purpose of the Florida Department of Corrections' inpatient mental health units is to provide treatment for mentally ill inmates, not to punish them. Secretary Crews' response to the Dade Correctional Institution deaths and abuses fails to get to the heart of the matter – the need for the vulnerable and mentally ill people isolated in these units to be protected from abuse."– Peter Sleasman, Florida Institutional Legal Services.

"Disability Rights Florida is deeply concerned about the care being provided to the mentally ill inmates housed in the inpatient mental health unit at Dade Correctional Institution. The reports of inmate deaths and abuse on this unit, coupled with the delayed and inadequate response by Secretary Crews, require our organization to take action on behalf of this vulnerable population" – David Boyer, Director of Investigations, Disability Rights Florida.

The lawsuit asks the federal court to require Secretary Crews to investigate and stop the abuse, train and supervise staff to ensure the abuse does not recur, and take other specific actions. It also requests that periodic independent oversight of Dade CI be put in place.

For more information:
Sylvia W. Smith, Director of Legislative and Public Affairs
850-617-9725
850-322-2258

Tags for this Post

abuse and neglect, department of corrections, institutions, litigation, mental illness,

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