An investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office found troubling conditions within Massachusetts prisons that authorities say have resulted in inmates dying or seriously injuring themselves while on mental-health watch, the Associated Press reports. The investigation showed that the state “fails to provide adequate mental health treatment to prisoners experiencing a mental health crisis and instead exposes them to conditions that harm them or place them at serious risk of harm,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Eric Dreiband.
DOJ said the Massachusetts Department of Correction isn’t properly supervising inmates in mental-health crisis, isn’t providing adequate mental-health care and is keeping some inmates in restrictive housing conditions. Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said, “The conditions at [state] facilities show how systemic deficiencies in prison facilities can compound each other and amount to constitutional violations,” he said. Federal authorities allege the conditions violate the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. In a letter to the governor, federal officials said that if the issues are not resolved amicably, the Justice Department might bring a lawsuit in 49 days to force the state to fix the problems.