Lawsuit Alleges Cruel and Unusual Conditions in State Prisons and Violations of Rights of People with Serious Mental Illness Held in Segregation

Old prison in Denmark

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 18, 2021

Contact:

Munib Lohrasbi, MunibL@DisabilityRightsMD.org (443) 692-2491

Robin C. Murphy, RobinK@DisabilityRightsMD.org 410-727-6352 ext. 2482

A lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that Maryland prison practices of confining individuals with serious mental illness in segregation violate the constitutional and federal rights of such individuals. Spending hour after hour in a steel and concrete cell the size of a parking space results in deterioration of health for persons with serious mental illness demonstrated by hallucinations, self-injurious behaviors, paranoia, increased anxiety, depression, aggression, social withdrawal, and serious risk of harms according to the lawsuit. The case, filed by Disability Rights Maryland, Inc. (DRM), represented by Venable LLP, states that individuals with serious mental health needs are receiving grossly inadequate health care and confined in cells for days and weeks at a time with little opportunity to engage in any meaningful activity. Some individuals have been kept in segregation for years. The lawsuit was filed against the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) and its officials in their official capacities and seeks injunctive relief.

“We continue to see firsthand the harm to Maryland’s incarcerated persons with serious mental illness, despite promised reforms,” stated Luciene Parsley, Legal Director at DRM. Citing to research, practices of other jurisdictions and a plethora of recommendations for best practices by organizations with expertise in these issues, including the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and the United States Department of Justice, all noting the serious harm inflicted upon individuals with serious mental illness subjected to segregation, DRM seeks to end the state’s practice of confining individuals with serious mental illness in segregated conditions and to instead establish humane conditions and programs. “Corrections officials across the country have recognized that confining people with serious mental health needs in segregation is inhumane and harmful. Providing alternative programs and services to meet basic health care needs is not a novel concept,” said Munib Lohrasbi, attorney with DRM. 

Michael Hecht of Venable LLP stated that they seek a remedy that will divert people with serious mental illness from harmful conditions in segregation units. “The State can fix these problems and we look forward to resolving our claims and ending practices that violate the Constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.”

The Complaint can be viewed here.

Disability Rights Maryland, Inc. (DRM), a non-profit organization, is Maryland’s designated Protection & Advocacy Agency federally authorized to advance and protect the civil rights of individuals with disabilities. DRM works with people with disabilities to achieve full participation in community life, self-determination, equality, freedom from abuse and neglect, and access to civil rights.

Venable LLP is an American Lawyer Global 100 law firm headquartered in Washington, DC that serves as primary counsel to a worldwide clientele of large and mid-sized organizations, nonprofits, high-net-worth entrepreneurs, and other individuals. With more than 850 professionals across the country, including in California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Virginia, and Washington, DC, the firm strategically advances its clients’ objectives in the U.S. and around the globe. Venable, which is celebrating its 121st anniversary, advises clients on a broad range of business and regulatory law, legislative affairs, complex litigation, and the full range of intellectual property disciplines.

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