A federal judge has ordered sweeping mental health care changes for Michigan’s prisons in Jackson to prevent the mistreatment and death of inmates, reports the Detroit Free Press. U.S. District Judge Richard Enslen suggested a prayer be said for those who have already died in custody. “Any earthly help comes far too late for them,” he said in a scathing opinion in which he chastised health-care providers in the prison for collecting their pay while ignoring the needs of those in their care. “Here is the basic message: You are valuable providers of life-saving services and medicines. You are not coatracks who collect government paychecks while your work is taken to the sexton for burial,” he wrote.
Enslen banned the use of nonmedical punishment restraints after Free Press articles that examined the worsening state of care in Michigan’s prisons, including the death of a mentally ill 21-year-old who had been left strapped naked to a concrete bed for most of five days without medical or mental health care before he died. The American Civil Liberties Union said it was the first time a judge anywhere in the nation had banned such restraints. If the ruling survives a possible appeal by corrections officials, changes will be made at other state prisons, said Patricia Streeter, an Ann Arbor lawyer in the case. Free Press editorial writer Jeff Gerritt examined the worsening state of health care in Michigan’s nearly 50 prisons for months.