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Disability Advocates Resolve Litigation with Florida Department of Corrections

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Disability Rights Florida and the Florida Institutional Legal Services Project of Florida Legal Services announce that a settlement has been reached in their lawsuit against the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC). The Complaint in that lawsuit, Disability Rights Florida v. Crews et al, 1:14-cv-23323, focused on the mental health unit at Dade Correctional Institution (Dade CI) and alleged that the DOC repeatedly failed to protect inmates with mental illnesses at Dade CI from abuse and repeatedly failed to provide inmates at Dade CI with adequate mental health care. The settlement agreement contains a number of stipulations tailored to protect inmates with mental illnesses.

The stipulations in the agreement include the following:

  1. Crisis Intervention Training: DOC agreed to provide Crisis Intervention Training to all staff at Dade CI. That agreement will be in force for both current and future correctional officers and other staff.
  2. Specialized Training: DOC will provide specialized training for correctional officers who work directly with inmates with mental illnesses.
  3. Supervisory Staff Training: DOC agreed to temporarily transfer personnel from other prisons in the state to provide supervisory training to staff at Dade CI.
  4. Security Enhancements: DOC agreed to upgrade its video monitoring system and begin a pilot program for an audio monitoring system.
  5. Full Security Staffing: DOC provided the authority to hire staff to provide full staffing at Dade CI.
  6. Assistant Warden: An additional Assistant Warden position will be created at Dade CI to manage and oversee the operations and services for individuals with mental illnesses.
  7. Mental Health Ombudsman: a Mental Health Ombudsman position will be created at DOC’s central office and at the Region III office. These two ombudsman positions are intended to provide leadership and supervision over the correctional system’s mental health care.
  8. Televisions: DOC agreed to install televisions in the common areas of the inpatient units at Dade CI for both therapeutic and recreational activities.
  9. Changes in Mental Health Delivery: the contractor for mental health services at Dade CI, Wexford Health Sources, agreed to implement all of these provisions, provide training, hire additional behavioral health staff, and conduct internal and external audits of its program.
  10. Expert Assessments: a team composed of psychiatrists and security experts will engage in a series of visits to Dade CI and will review records, observe therapeutic and non-therapeutic activities, and evaluate the safeguards against abuse and neglect at the facility. The experts will then issues reports with recommendations for any needed changes and improvements. These assessments are currently in progress.

The agreement further stipulates that when the expert assessments are complete, Disability Rights Florida, the Florida Department of Corrections, and Wexford Health Sources will confer on a plan to implement the changes and improvements recommended. The experts will conduct follow-up visits to Dade CI to ensure that the recommendations have been implemented. The parties will then continue to monitor compliance with the agreement through May of 2017.

The agreement not only outlines the actions agreed to by the parties, but also the actions available to the parties should there be a breach of the agreement. The agreement has been pending final approval by the parties since mid-April and can be accessed via the court file as an attachment to the Joint Motion for Administrative Closure of the Case. Some of the actions described in the agreement have been initiated. The agreement is now in full effect due to having been recently signed by all the necessary parties.

Tags for this Post

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

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