Start A Petition
This thread is archived. To reply to it you must re-activate it.
Mentally challenged in prison February 07, 2005 7:06 PM

I found this article on the web, and I am going to look into this more as I had no idea that mentally challenged people were put into the same prisons as other criminals...

From "The Other Side of the Wall"
Website of the Prison Law Office
January 14, 1998
Article at

Lawsuit seeks to protect
developmentally disabled prisoners

A federal lawsuit alleges that Governor Pete Wilson and California state prison officials are deliberately violating federal law by depriving mentally retarded inmates of educational services.

The complaint, filed by the Prison Law Office and Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro in the Northern District Court of California, amends and buttresses a class action suit.

That suit charges state officials with knowingly allowing thousands of retarded prisoners, many with the minds of children, to be physically, sexually and mentally abused and to be deprived of basic services throughout California's prison system.

The suit charges state officials with "intentional and deliberate indifference to the needs of developmentally disabled prisoners" and contends that there is "inadequate professional staffing and training" to properly identify and protect retarded prison inmates.

The amended complaint was filed on January 14, 1998, one day before a legislative hearing into the plight of developmentally disabled state prisoners. The hearing will also look into problems faced by mentally retarded victims and defendants in criminal cases.

"The callousness and disregard for human rights by the Governor and the Department of Corrections brutalizes developmentally disabled inmates who are helpless," said Prison Law Office director Donald Specter.

"In addition, the failure to provide basic programs, such as special education, makes it more difficult for these individuals to lead productive lives once they are released."

"We put the governor and Department of Corrections on notice with this suit almost two years ago that conditions for retarded prisoners are discriminatory, inhumane and unconstitutional," said Specter, "but, as usual, they are refusing to take remedial action until forced to by the courts."

The amended complaint alleges that failure to provide special educational services for retarded prisoners under 22 years of age is a direct violation of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

"Governor Wilson is well aware of the IDEA." said Caroline Mitchell, one of the lawyers from Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro. "He tried to have it changed. That failed, and now it is time for the state to comply with its obligations under the Act to inmates who are mentally retarded and need special education services."

The lawsuit estimates that there are at least 1,500 developmentally disabled inmates in the state prison system. It cites instance after instance of vulnerable prisoners being abused by other prisoners and taunted by insensitive guards.

For example, a 28-year-old inmate with an IQ of 54 was repeatedly assaulted, raped and verbally abused at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego County. In one incident his throat was slashed by a fellow prisoner wielding a razor blade. The complaint states:

"As a result of his developmental disabilities, prison officials dismissed attempts by [the inmate] to articulate concerns about his safety and exposed him to a cellmate who preyed upon his disabilities. Over the course of a two-week period, that cellmate repeatedly raped and assaulted him."

There are other problems. Mentally retarded inmates who cannot read or understand prison rules inadvertently commit infractions, lose "good time" credit and end up with longer sentences than other inmates. They are also exploited by other prisoners. The complaint states:

"Plaintiffs' disabilities render them susceptible to becoming unwitting pawns at the hands of other prisoners, who use them to violate prison rules and regulations. This exposes them to retaliation from both other prisoners and correctional officers."

In addition to violating IDEA, the suit charges that the treatment of mentally retarded state prisoners is contrary to the federal Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The action also contends that state officials are violating the due process, equal protection and cruel and unusual punishment provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

 [ send green star]
1998 February 07, 2005 7:18 PM

And that article was written in 1998.

Nothing has changed.

A few years back in Florida, a mentally challenged young man (early 20`s) who had the mind of an innocent child and was inside for a nonviolent crime,according to inmates, was strangled. Even though all the inmates knew who had done it, the Investigators never "found" a suspect.

 [ send green star]  [ accepted]
Over and Over February 11, 2005 2:49 AM

Mentally challenged or "retarded" men are put on death row. This of course, is unconstitutional, under the Supreme Court ruling Atkins v. Virginia, 2002(which noted "because of their impairments... by definition they have diminished capacities to understand and process information, to communicate, to abstract from mistakes and learn from experience, to engage in logical reasoning, to control impulses, and to understand the reactions of others... they often act on impulse rather than pursuant to a premeditated plan." ).

OF COURSE, so often the fact that these men have the IQ of 75 or lessis not entered in as mitigating evidence. Also, there is not legal definition of "mental retardation" as far as I know (although there are "guidelines")and many stateshave not outlawed the execution of the mentally challenged, even though the Supreme Court made it illegal in 2002.

Knowing this, the information presented does not surprise me one bit. States willingly and illegally execute the mentally retarded. Why would they give them any special facilities or treatmentin prison?

 [ send green star]  [ accepted]

From Iowa Nurses Assc. February 14, 2005 2:44 PM

Found this interesting article at above website. I am posting excerpt of it here:

Emerging Issues in Corrections and Mental Health
John Goeldner, Executive Officer
Iowa Department of Corrections

When the nation began the "deinstitutionalization" of mentally challenged citizens many mental health professionals predicted dire consequences. Mental health service delivery was consciously shifted from the institutional setting to a community based out patient service delivery model.

The goal was noble. Integrating the mentally challenged into the community provided each individual with the opportunity for personal fulfillment while reducing the cost of service delivery. However, from the onset, mental health services were under-funded by government, unavailable to many, and un-insured for most.

At the same time, a boom in prison construction was underway. Public concern over rising crime resulted in long "Get Tough" sentences. Coupled with frustration over the mediocre success of treatment programs, many policy makers simply threw up their hands, declared that "nothing works", and sent offenders to prison in record numbers. Caught in this vortex of changing public attitudes towards crime and diminished mental health resources, many of our mentally challenged citizens found themselves involved in the criminal justice system. Prisons and jails are rapidly becoming today's mental health institutions.

A recent study by the US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics found 30.2 percent of state prison inmates suffered from or had suffered from a mental or emotional condition at some point in their life (data was in part self reported). The study found over 20 percent were receiving therapeutic treatment or had received treatment in the past.

In 1997, a comprehensive study of "special needs" inmates in the Iowa prison system was undertaken. The study found that 1,128 inmates out of a total inmate population of 6,735 or 16.7 percent fell into the special needs category. This group includes inmates who are psychologically challenged, behaviorally disordered, or medically limited. Over 90 percent of the identified special needs inmates were either psychologically challenged (682) or behaviorally disordered (345) groups.

Included in the special needs group are 530 non-integratable inmates that pose a special challenge to corrections professionals. Because of behavior or treatment needs these inmates cannot be integrated with the general inmate population and must be managed in specialized housing units with more intense staffing. The majority of these inmates, approximately 57 percent, are habitually disruptive or injurious to others or themselves. These inmates are held in our most secure units and require additional security staff. An additional 38 percent include the mentally retarded, chronic mentally disordered, and those with significant physical limitations. These inmates are held in units segregated from the general inmate population and require additional counseling and health services staff.

The Iowa Department of Corrections is responding to the challenges presented by special needs inmates on two major fronts. One addresses the department's internal processes and procedures while the other will address physical plant needs and the environment for service delivery.

Specific areas of focus include: intake screening and assessment of inmates; assessment and quality assurance of system services; the use of medications; the use of tele-health services; and staff education and training.

The Department has also focused on improving the physical environment for managing special needs inmates. Construction will be completed in the spring of 2002 on a 200-bed special needs unit at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Ft. Madison. This facility has been designed to house the systems most dangerous and physically violent offenders.

A second 170-bed special needs unit is in the planning stages as an addition to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center at Oakdale. In addition to providing housing for mentally and medically vulnerable inmates, this project will include medical clinic and programming space that will greatly improve system health service delivery.

In combination, the physical plant and programmatic changes will place Iowa among the nation's leaders in correctional health care services.

 [ send green star]
  New Topic              Back To Topics Read Code of Conduct


This group:
Crime, Criminals, Prison & Rehabilitation
203 Members

View All Topics
New Topic

Track Topic
Mail Preferences

New to Care2? Start Here.