Florida Prison Lawyer for Neglect of Mental Health Care

Mental health care of prisoners is governed by the same constitutional standard of deliberate indifference as is medical care. A “severe” mental illness is one “that has caused significant disruption in an inmate’s everyday life and which prevents his functioning in the general population without disturbing or endangering others or himself.” When an inmate’s health is neglected, devastating consequences and death could occur. If your loved one did not receive proper care in prison, our inmate lawyers are here to help.

Elements of an Adequate Mental Health Care System for Inmates

The Eighth Amendment requires that prison officials provide a system of ready access to adequate mental health care. First, there must be a systematic program for screening and evaluating inmates in order to identify those who require mental health treatment. Second, treatment must entail more than segregation and solitary confinement of the inmate patients. Third, treatment requires the participation of trained mental health professionals, who must be employed in sufficient numbers to identify and treat in an individualized manner those treatable inmates suffering from serious mental disorders. Fourth, accurate, complete, and confidential records of the mental health treatment process must be maintained. Fifth, prescription and administration of behavior-altering medications in dangerous amounts, by dangerous methods, or without appropriate supervision and periodic evaluation, is an unacceptable method of treatment. Sixth, a basic program for the identification, treatment and supervision of inmates with suicidal tendencies is a necessary component of any mental health treatment program.

Our Florida Prison Lawyer Outlines How Jails Violate the Laws Protecting Inmates

Deinstitutionalization of America

With the decreasing availability of mental health institutions equipped to help individuals suffering from severe mental and psychiatric health issues (a movement known as “deinstitutionalization”), America’s prisons and jails are now functioning as asylums for individuals with mental health issues. 

As of 2014, a study revealed approximately 20 percent of inmates in jails and 15 percent of inmates in state prisons had serious mental health issues which calculate out to be about 356,000 inmates – a number 10 times more than individuals with mental health issues in state hospitals. 

According to Mental Health America, jails in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago now are the three largest institutions providing psychiatric care in the United States. Between the 1960’s and 1990’s, many state-run mental health institutions closed and about 487,000 mentally ill individuals were discharged from state hospitals. By 2010, there were only about 43,000 psychiatric beds available or 14 psychiatric beds available per 100,000 people.  

As a result of this deinstitutionalization movement, about 3.5 million severely mentally ill individuals are unable to receive the psychiatric treatment that they so desperately need.  Many thousands of people suffer from extreme mental health issues such as schizophrenia, depression, or bipolar disorder, and many are homeless and include veterans who suffer from war-related post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Regardless of whether prisons and jails wanted to become mental health institutions, that is the role they have acquired and as such they have a duty to provide adequate medical and mental health care to their inmates.  Unfortunately, for some institutions, mental health care consists of “solitary confinement, physical restraints, removal of food, and refusal of medication, amongst other life-threatening actions.”  These treatment protocols are not only inadequate but are in violation of the law. 

Mental Health is Often Disregarded by the Prison System 

Jails and prisons have a legal obligation to provide adequate medical care for inmates to ensure they are safe and healthy while incarcerated.  Institutions should have trained medical staff who can identify inmates who are at risk of committing suicide, and who know the proper protocol for handling patients who are a suicide risk. Once a prison staff member identifies an inmate as a suicide risk, the staff member should execute a safety protocol to protect the inmate such as ensure that the inmate is properly monitored 24 hours 7 days a week, is placed in an environment that is safe, and that emergency intervention is available if needed. Merely placing the individual in solitary confinement or restraining him or her is not enough. Where an institution deliberately fails to identify symptoms and implement appropriate safety protocols to protect inmates from suicide, the institution has been neglectful and may be held legally responsible for a death of the inmate who committed suicide.

Some inmates who enter prison or jail do so without mental health issues. However, while they are there, they develop mental health issues because of the inhumane environment that creates mental and psychiatric issues that are then untreated. Some inmates only commit minor crimes and are only in prison or jail for a short time. However, because of their mental health issues and the inhumane treatment and lack of access to medical care, they never leave the prison walls alive because they committed suicide before they could get a second chance at life and receive help from their loved ones upon release.

The attorneys at Lauer & Currie, P.A. hold prison institutions accountable for the flaws in their system that lead to inmate deaths from suicide by filing a wrongful death case against the prison or jail.   

If you are a loved one of an inmate who committed suicide inside of a prison or jail, a Florida prison attorney at Lauer & Currie, P.A can help you obtain compensation for the death of your loved one. 

A Florida Prison Lawyer Can Help – Call Today

If you or a loved one has suffered significant damages due to neglect while incarcerated, or if a loved one has died due to neglect while imprisoned, call Lauer & Currie, P.A  today to speak with a lawyer who is dedicated to prison suicide cases. Our Florida prison lawyers can help you obtain compensation for the death of your loved one that may include compensation for funeral costs, lost future wages, and emotional pain and suffering.

Our team of Florida inmate wrongful death lawyers has years of experience handling prison and jail wrongful death cases. Our attorneys are especially adept at ensuring those responsible for perpetrating these atrocities are held accountable and responsible financially for their negligence and neglect of your loved one. We have offices conveniently located in Fort Lauderdale, but we serve clients throughout Florida’s jails, including those in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade County

You can reach us online or by calling 954-533-4498.  We are here for your family to help you vindicate the rights of your loved one and pursue justice.


Some examples of actionable harm from inadequate mental health care include:

  • Lack of adequate mental health screening on intake.34
  • Failure to follow up on prisoners with known or suspected mental health disorders.35
  • Failure to provide adequate numbers of qualified mental health staff.36
  • Housing mentally ill prisoners in segregation or “supermax” units.37
  • Failure to transfer seriously mentally ill prisoners to more appropriate facilities.38
  • Improper use of restraints.39
  • Excessive use of force against mentally ill prisoners.40
  • Lack of training of custody staff in mental health issues.41
  • Barnes v. Government of Virgin Islands, 415 F.Supp. 1218, 1235 (D.V.I. 1976).
  • Tillery v. Owens, 719 F.Supp. 1256, 1286 (W.D. Pa. 1989), aff’d, 907 F.2d 418 (3rd Cir. 1990).
  • Ruiz v. Estelle, 503 F.Supp. 1265, 1339 (S.D. Tex. 1980) (citations omitted), aff’d in part and rev’d in part on other grounds, 679 F.2d 1115 (5th Cir.), amended in part and vacated in part, 688 F.2d 266 (5th Cir. 1982); accord Balla v. Idaho State Bd. of Corrections, 595 F.Supp. 1558, 1577 (D. Idaho 1984); Coleman v. Wilson, 912 F.Supp. 1282, 1298 n.10 (E.D. Cal. 1995). 34 Woodward v. Correctional Medical Servs., 368 F.3d 917 (7th Cir. 2004); Gibson v. County of Washoe, 290 F.3d 1175, 1189 (9th Cir. 2002), cert. denied, 537 U.S. 1106 (2003); Inmates of Occoquan v. Barry, 717 F.Supp. 854, 868 (D.D.C. 1989); Inmates of the Allegheny County Jail v. Pierce, 487 F.Supp. 638, 642, 644 (W.D. Pa. 1980).
  • Woodward v. Correctional Medical Servs., 368 F.3d 917 (7th Cir. 2004) (failure to respond to signs that prisoner was suicidal); De’Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630 (4th Cir. 2003) (failure to treat prisoner’s compulsion to self-mutilate); Olsen v. Bloomberg, 339 F.3d 730 (8th Cir. 2003) (failure to take reasonable steps to prevent prisoner suicide); Cavalieri v. Shepard, 321 F.3d 616, 621-22 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 1003 (2003) (failure to respond to warnings that prisoner was suicidal); Comstock v. McCrary, 273 F.3d 693 (6th Cir. 2001), cert. denied, 537 U.S. 817(2002); Sanville v. McCaughtrey, 266 F.3d 724, 738 (7 Cir. 2001); Waldrop v. Evans, 871 F.2d 1030, 1036 (11th Cir. 1989); Arnold v. Lewis, 803 F.Supp. 246, 257-58 (D. Ariz. 1992).
  • Waldrop v. Evans, 871 F.2d 1030, 1036 (11th Cir. 1989) (non-psychiatrist was not qualified to evaluate significance of prisoner’s suicidal gesture); Cabrales v. County of Los Angeles, 864 F.2d 1454, 1461 (9 Cir. 1988), vacated, 490 U.S. 1087 (1989), reinstated, 886 F.2d 235 (9th Cir. 1989); Wellman v. Faulkner, 715 F.2d 269, 272-73 (7th Cir. 1983) (“a psychiatrist is needed to supervise long term maintenance” on psychotropic medication); Ramos v. Lamm, 639 F.2d 559, 577-78 (10th Cir. 1980).
  • Jones’El v. Berge, 164 F.Supp.2d 1096 (W.D. Wis. 2001); Ruiz v. Johnson, 37 F.Supp.2d 855, 913-15 (S.D. Tex. 1999), rev’d on other grounds, 243 F.3d 941 (5th Cir. 2001), adhered to on remand, 154 F.Supp.2d 975 (S.D. Tex. 2001); Coleman v. Wilson, 912 F.Supp. 1282, 1320-21 (E.D. Cal. 1995); Madrid v. Gomez, 889 F.Supp. 1146, 1265-66 (N.D. Cal. 1995); Casey v. Lewis, 834 F.Supp. 1477, 1549-50 (D. Ariz. 1993); Finney v. Mabry, 534 F.Supp. 1026, 1036-37 (E.D. Ark. 1982); see also Gates v. Cook, 376 F.3d 323, 343 (5th Cir. 2004) (noting evidence that “the isolation and idleness of Death Row combined with the squalor, poor hygiene, temperature, and noise of extremely psychotic prisoners create an environment ‘toxic’ to the prisoners’ mental health”).
  • Morales Feliciano v. Rossello Gonzalez, 13 F.Supp.2d 151, 209, 211 (D.P.R. 1998); Madrid, 889 F.Supp.at 1220; Coleman, 912 F.Supp. at 1309; Arnold v. Lewis, 803 F.Supp. 247, 257 (D. Ariz. 1992).
  • Wells v. Franzen, 777 F.2d 1258, 1261-62 (7th Cir. 1985); Campbell v. McGruder, 580 F.2d 521, 551 (D.C. Cir. 1978).
  • Coleman, 912 F.Supp. at 1321-23; Kendrick v. Bland, 541 F.Supp. 21, 25-26 (W.D. Ky. 1981).
  • Olsen v. Layton Hills Mall, 312 F.3d 1304, 1319-20 (10th Cir. 2002).