Hundreds of seriously mentally ill Massachusetts prisoners are held in cells 23 hours a day in inhumane conditions that have led to self-mutilation, the swallowing of razor blades, and at least seven suicides since November 2004, an advocacy group charged yesterday. The Boston Globe said the group filed a federal lawsuit demanding that the inmates be housed in special treatment units.
The Disability Law Center sued after a yearlong investigation questioning more than 220 inmates in segregation units at two maximum-security prisons. The advocates estimated that hundreds of prisoners with mental health issues are confined in ways that exceed “the limit of human endurance” for those with psychological problems. The suit, similar to legal challenges that have led to changes in other states, says Massachusetts has ignored repeated calls from its mental health providers and consultants to stop segregating mentally ill prisoners. The suit demands that the state build maximum-security residential treatment units. “The system is broken,” said Stanley J. Eichner executive director of the law center.