Prison Issues and Mental Health

A.J. Ruben, J.D., and Nancy Alisberg, J.D.

A.J. Ruben is supervising attorney at Disability Rights Vermont (DRVT). In this position he has litigated cases in State and Federal Court, as well as at the Vermont Human Rights Commission, involving prisoners with mental health conditions. Cases have included assertions of inadequate mental health treatment in prison, over use of segregation, uses of force and discipline for behaviors related to mental health conditions, delays in reintegration into the community based on a prisoner’s need for mental health staffed, supported placements, and delays in placement in hospital-level care for prisoners and detains identified as requiring that level of care. DRVT has also often worked with prisoners on obtaining reasonable accommodations in programming and prison employment.

Currently DRVT represents a prisoner in a State Court lawsuit for damages alleging violation of 8th Amendment and ADA, among other claims, related to the prisoner’s detention in segregation for more than two years, during which time he engaged in significant self-harming (genital mutilation) and did not receive adequate mental health care or reasonable accommodations for his disability.

DRVT also currently represents a prisoner in Federal Court asserting that his rights under the 8thAmendment and the ADA, among others, were violated when he was held in segregation in prison for 26 days during which time his psychiatrist determined he needed hospital-level care due to self-harming behavior, but was not transferred to such a higher level of care. Nancy Alisberg, J.D., Legal Director at Disability Rights Connecticut, the Connecticut protection and advocacy program, will be joining Mr. Ruben in this discussion.