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Citing Poor Care for Mental Health in US Prisons, UK Court Refuses Extradition Request

For a second time in six years, the U.K. has declined to send an accused hacker to the U.S. out of concern for his safety in the care of the Department of Justice

A British appeals court declined to extradite Lauri Love, center, to the U.S. to stand trial for alleged hacking he carried out in 2012 and 2013, citing reports that U.S. prisons would be unsafe for him. (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

An accused hacker will not be extradited to the United States after a British appeals court ruled that detaining the man in U.S. prisons would be harmful to his health and safety.

Lauri Love, who is accused to stealing information from U.S. military agencies and private companies in 2012 and 2013, had argued that his medical and mental health conditions—including severe depression and Asperger's syndrome—would likely be mistreated in the U.S. prison system, putting him at risk for suicide.

The British human rights group Liberty applauded the recognition of "Lauri's vulnerability, close family connections to the U.K. and the potentially catastrophic consequences of extraditing him."

At the defense's request, the court heard testimony from Simon Baron-Cohen, a Cambridge University professor who specializes in autism spectrum disorders, who detailed widely-reported lapses in health care for inmates with mental health conditions.

"Mentally ill inmates were often put in solitary confinement where they cannot access mental health services, with especially negative consequences for Mr. Love," Baron-Cohen told the court, adding that "he would not receive treatment for clinical depression until it reached 'crisis/suicidal' level."

Despite assurances from the Department of Justice that Love would be supervised to ensure he didn't harm himself, the court found that extradition to the U.S. would be "oppressive."

The decision follows numerous reports in recent years regarding the mistreatment of U.S. inmates with mental health conditions.

The DOJ found last year that while incarcerated Americans are about five times as likely as other citizens to need mental health treatment, only one-third of inmates receive care while incarcerated.

Human Rights Watch also said in 2009 that “Prison mental health services are all too frequently woefully deficient, crippled by understaffing, insufficient facilities, and limited programs. Many seriously ill prisoners receive little or no meaningful treatment.”

Journalist Glenn Greenwald noted that the U.K. has declined to send an accused hacker to the U.S. due to concerns over the prison system once before, in 2012—calling attention to major deficiencies in U.S. prisons.

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