Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lawsuit Alleges Prisoner Abuse at Tangipahoa Parish Prison

From our friends at the ACLU of Louisiana:
Roger Mason is a 52-year-old man with Schizophrenia. On August 18, 2009, Mr. Mason was arrested and placed in Tangipahoa Parish Prison. Despite clear evidence of Mr. Mason’s mental illness, the prison staff provided grossly inadequate care to him for 5 months. Without treatment, Mr. Mason became increasingly psychotic and delusional and suffered significant physical injuries.

Mr. Mason was found incompetent to stand trial and was transferred to Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System in January 2010. He arrived in a filthy jumpsuit with a strip of rag tied around his right wrist. A stench issued from his wrist which appeared infected and which emitted a green discharge. The rag was embedded in Mr. Mason's arm, with skin growing over the rag in places. Mr. Mason also had an ulcerous wound on the right side of his back and fractured ribs. These wounds were obviously long standing and had been left untreated during his months of imprisonment.

Miranda Tait, Attorney with the Advocacy Center states, “Mr. Mason was clearly unable to care for himself or to differentiate illusion from reality. For 5 months, he lived a nightmare locked in a cell 23 hours a day, unable to communicate with anyone or ask for help.”

On January 24, 2011, the Advocacy Center and the ACLU of Louisiana filed a lawsuit against Tangipahoa Parish officials alleging that their failure to provide Mr. Mason with necessary psychiatric care mental health medication is a violation of his rights under the 14th Amendment. In addition, the suit alleges that Mr. Mason suffered discrimination on the basis of his disability and that parish and prison officials were negligent of their responsibilities to Mr. Mason under state law.

Lois Simpson, Executive Director of the Advocacy Center, states, ”Jails may be overcrowded and understaffed but no budgetary constraints can excuse the heartless treatment experienced by Mr. Mason.”

“Our public officials have an obligation to care for the most vulnerable among us,” said Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “Denying basic care to someone unable to care for himself is an unconscionable abuse of authority.”

A copy of the complaint is available at this link.

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