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IN Dept of Correction in court over mentally ill inmates

The Indiana Department of Correction (DOC) is set to appear in District Court  Wednesday afternoon to answer allegations of mistreating mentally ill inmates.

A U.S. District Court judge told the state in December to improve the way they handle mentally ill inmates. The DOC was accused of locking inmates with mental disabilities in solitary confinement for hours at a time.

The American Civil Liberties Union says the DOC has failed to make changes since the order was issued and the DOC will have to answer to those allegations during a hearing at the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. There, the DOC is expected to outline its exact plans for improving conditions for mentally ill inmates.

Indiana ACLU Legal Director Ken Falk says with so much damage being done, the DOC needs to act quickly.

“I’m hoping that we get much closer to a permanent solution. The decision was December 31 and we still have no changes in how the department is behaving towards these mentally ill prisoners.”

Joshua Sprunger is the Executive Director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Indiana. He says the system must be changed to not only help the mentally ill behind bars, but also help them successfully return to society.

“Our prison systems are designed by nature for public safety, not for treatment, so the systems that our corrections officials are using and developing are really trying to adapt to needs that the system wasn’t built for.”

DOC officials declined to be recorded, but say they are working with all parties involved to comply with the court’s order.