For Immediate Release
ACLU Settles Lawsuit Charging Inadequate Care at Wisconsin Women's Prison
Dramatic Improvements in Medical and Mental Health Care Will Ensure Female Prisoners Receive Same Levels of Care As Men
MILWAUKEE, Wis. - The
American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the law firm
Jenner and Block today filed papers seeking court approval of an
agreement to settle a longstanding class-action lawsuit charging that
grossly deficient medical and mental health care jeopardized the lives
of prisoners at the state's largest women's prison.
As part of the agreement, filed today
in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, state
officials have agreed to implement a number of significant structural
improvements aimed at ensuring that constitutionally adequate levels of
care are provided to all prisoners at the Taycheedah Correctional
Institution (TCI), and that female prisoners receive the same levels of
mental health care as the state's male prisoners.
"Today's settlement is a real victory
for all female prisoners at TCI who will no longer have to suffer
needlessly in a system that fails to comply with the requirements of the
U.S. Constitution," said Gabriel Eber, staff attorney with the ACLU
National Prison Project. "This settlement will lead to dramatic
improvements in the quality of health care prisoners will receive."
Under the terms of the settlement
agreement, state correctional officials must hire a full-time medical
director who will oversee all health care at TCI, be on site five days a
week and be devoted to administration and patient care. State officials
will also be required to hire a consultant charged with regularly
monitoring the medical care being provided to prisoners, provide
recommendations about how to improve care and analyze TCI's compliance
with agreed-upon health care performance standards.
State officials must also complete
construction by June 2012 of an off site women's resource center that
will accept prisoners from TCI who need inpatient-level psychiatric
services. Construction of planned annexes at TCI which will provide
space for out-of-cell therapeutic activities and group and individual
therapy for prisoners with serious mental illnesses must also be
completed by June 2012.
Additionally, state officials must
make a number of improvements to ensure the safety and access to core
programs and services of prisoners with disabilities, including
providing prisoners with hearing impairments access to sign language
interpreters, reading assistance and Braille materials for prisoners
with vision impairments and increased maintenance of paths, walkways and
thoroughfares between buildings.
"The health care system at TCI has
been in crisis for years and today's settlement agreement is a
monumental step toward achieving much-needed improvements and
accountability," said Larry Dupuis, Legal Director of the ACLU of
Wisconsin. "The measures that will be put in place will have a positive
impact not only on the prisoners at TCI but on the communities to which
prisoners will return upon release."
The first-of-its-kind class action
lawsuit was filed in 2006 by the ACLU on behalf of women prisoners at
TCI. The lawsuit charged that the state prison system put the lives of
women prisoners at risk through grossly deficient health care, provided
far inferior mental health treatment as compared to men and failed to
provide reasonable accommodations to allow prisoners with disabilities
to access basic prison services.
The lawsuit sought reforms to the
system so that constitutionally adequate care be made available. In
April 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph T. Randa entered a
preliminary injunction ordering that significant changes be made
immediately to TCI's dangerous system of administering medications to
The ACLU's lawsuit charged that the
prison's health system violates the Constitution's Eighth Amendment
prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment and that the mental health
care system violated the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal
protection, because the women received mental health care far inferior
to what male prisoners receive.
A copy of today's settlement agreement is available online at: www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.