Judge rejects Illinois corrections’ mental health plan

Prison cell photo from ThinkStock

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — A federal judge has rejected the Illinois Department of Corrections’ plan to address flaws in mental health care for 12,000 inmates.

Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General Douglas Rees recommended a two-step plan to identify and provide additional care for inmates. But U.S. District Judge Michael Mihm called the state’s plan insufficient, The Pantagraph reported .

“It’s not a plan. It’s nothing, really,” Mihm said on Tuesday.

He said the biggest issue the corrections department faces is a lack of staff.

“The inadequate number of psychiatrists and mental health professionals simply makes the job the department is constitutionally required to perform impossible,” Mihm said.

The judge also opposed a state request for more flexibility in how existing staff is assigned within the mental health system.

A federal court order has forced the Corrections Department’s compliance with a 2016 settlement agreement seeking significant improvements to the state’s prison mental health care following a 2007 lawsuit by inmates.

Mihm ruled last month that the state had violated prisoners’ constitutional rights and was indifferent to their conditions.

The judge could appoint a receiver to oversee improvements if the state fails to meet the agreement’s terms.

“The department remains committed to the settlement agreement. We believe with each passing month it gets better,” Rees said.

Improvements include 15 facilities seeing no delays in getting inmates referred for mental health services initial evaluations, he said. Only four facilities had delays of 60 days. The state is also working to reduce the backlog of psychiatric evaluations, Rees said.

Mihm will issue a final ruling Friday.