High incidences of suicide among incarcerated people brought to light in 2017 spurred discussions about reform in Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington State, and elsewhere.Austin Jenkins, “How 11 Suicides Forced Change Inside Washington Prisons,” NW News Network, March 6, 2017; Matt Bonesteel, “Aaron Hernandez’s Hanging Underscores Widespread Suicide Problem in Massachusetts Prisons,” Washington Post, April 19, 2017; Emanuella Grinberg, “Prison Suicides are on the Rise Nationally and it’s Pretty Bad in Massachusetts,” CNN, April 19, 2017; Tim Marcin, “Hernandez’s Death Shines Light on Larger Problem of Prison Suicides,” Newsweek, April 20, 2017; “Father Questioning Prison’s Policies After Inmate’s Suicide,” U.S. News & World Report, August 7, 2017; and Justin Fenton, “Inmate Being Held in Segregation Found in Maryland Women’s Prison,” Baltimore Sun, November 15, 2017.
There were also multiple lawsuits regarding mental health care behind bars. For example, in June 2017, a class action lawsuit brought by people imprisoned in Alabama resulted in a landmark decision ordering the state to improve mental health treatment and services in its prisons. In a 302-page opinion in which he outlined the “serious systemic deficiencies” of the mental health services made available by the Alabama Department of Corrections, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson characterized the care provided to people incarcerated in the state’s prisons as being “horrendously inadequate.”Braggs. v. Dunn, 2:14-cv-601-MHT(WO) (M.D. Al. June 27, 2017), also see Debbie Elliott, “Alabama Prisons Ruled ‘Horrendously Inadequate,’ Must Improve,” NPR, June 27, 2017. Lawyers in Illinois recently filed a motion alleging that the state has not met the terms of a settlement that required major reforms to the prison mental health system.Plaintiffs’ Motion to Enforce the Settlement Agreement, Rasho v. Baldwin, No. 1:07-CV-1298-MMM-JEH (C.D. Ill. October 10, 2017), 36-41; and Edith Brady-Lunny, “Inmates Ask Court to Remedy Shortcomings in Mental Health Care,” The Pantagraph, October 11, 2017. The underlying settlement agreement.