Federal judge rules Alabama prisons mental health case can move forward as class action lawsuit

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — A federal judge ruled that a lawsuit on behalf of prisoners denied mental health care in Alabama prisons can head to trial as a class action suit. Inmates claim the state isn’t providing constitutionally adequate mental health treatment.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson’s ruling clears the way for the case to go to trial next month. The class action status means mental health care rulings in the case extend beyond the prisoners named in the lawsuit and would benefit the nearly 25,000 people in state prisons.

The suit was first filed in 2014. Inmates claim the state is failing to provide basic medical and mental health care. Judge Thompson’s ruling noted there is evidence of systematic “deliberate indifference” to the mental health needs of prisoners.

An attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center praised the decision as a victory for inmates. A spokesman for the prison system says the department is reviewing the decision.

The state has disputed all the accusations in the lawsuit. The trial is set to start December 5th.

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