The plight of another plaintiff, Ernest Shaifer, who also has a long history of severe mental illness, illustrates another area of questioning that warrants an explanation from the Bureau. Its policy now precludes the use of psychotropic drugs in the ADX-Florence Control Unit. Shaifer has been in that Unit at Florence since 2004, seeking during that time to be treated for his illness. Despite his repeated requests, the BOP recently concluded that he could not be given medication but would be helped to develop good "coping skills." He is scheduled to be released in July 2014. Who exactly at the Bureau of Prisons is willing to testify, under oath, that Shaifer will be mentally stable upon release?
Officials from the BOP should also have to explain under oath why they so frequently reject the recommendations of sentencing judges. In the case of another plaintiff, another patently psychotic prisoner, a man diagnosed with PTSD, bipolar disorder, and epilepsy, prison officials blew off two federal judges, each of whom indicated, when sentencing Jeremy Pinson, that he would need significant mental health treatment in prison. There are several prisons within the federal system specifically designed to treat mentally ill prisoners. ADX-Florence, where Pinson is housed, is not one of them. He's been on suicide watch at least ten times, including most recently last month.
Finally, there is the case of John Narducci, another named plaintiff. When he was four years old, his father was shot and killed in the boy's home. When he was 11, his mother had a fatal heart attack in front of him. He was the only one at home at the time. He then lived with his stepfather, who killed himself after being caught molesting Narducci's younger brother. Today, although he suffers from at least four major mental illness, including a Mixed Personality Disorder and symptoms of complex PTSD, the Bureau of Prisons is failing to treat Narducci. He is scheduled to be released in 2015. Who at the Bureau of Prisons is going to testify under oath that he's no threat to the public?
In the face of these allegations, in the face of a complaint filed with examples of systemic abuse and mistreatment, the Obama Administration through its lawyers has recited a litany of legal and factual reasons why the case should be dismissed now, before any prison officials are deposed. The feds argue that the prisoners have not pleaded enough facts, with enough specificity, to permit the case to proceed. The feds argue that the prisoners have sued the wrong prison officials.
They argue that the inmates are getting the mental health treatment they have requested. They argue that prison executives did not know or could not have known the specifics of the cases identified in the complaint. In short, the feds argue that prisoners like these must plead the entirety of their case at the outset of the case, that they must offer up in their initial pleading complete answers to questions only the prison officials themselves could know they are going to ask. Here's a sample from the feds' reply brief:
Each Plaintiff must allege facts, specific to him, showing that an official deprived him of basic care, and that the deprivation subjected him to serious harm or a substantial risk of serious harm. For example, an allegation about staffing levels at a prison does not satisfy the objective prong unless the inmate alleges that the staffing levels actually had a significant effect on him. Here, no Plaintiff alleges that he made a request to meet with psychological services and then had to wait an unduly long time, resulting in harm. Nor do any of the Plaintiffs allege that a medical doctor has currently prescribed a medication that a BOP official has refused to provide.
About Cunningham having "telepsychiatry sessions" while shackled in his cell? The feds told Judge Matsch that:
[N]one of the Plaintiffs alleges facts showing that it is constitutional deprivation for an inmate to receive a psychological counseling session in the doorway to his cell, in the presence of correctional officers. Indeed, no Plaintiff suggests that he has asked for any other kind of visit.
What about some of the specific prison officials named in the complaint, the folks whom the prisoners allege were in charge of Supermax policies and procedures? The feds say that many of those officials now are gone from ADX-Florence, transferred to other prisons within the federal system. One of the named defendants whom the feds say should not be part of the lawsuit is Blake Davis, who spent years as an administrator at ADX-Florence. In 2011, he was awarded the BOP's "National Wardens' Award for Excellence in Prison Management." Early last year, he was promoted to a new position within the BOP that oversees many programs, including psychology services for the entire Bureau.