Today the Department of Justice filed a complaint and a simultaneous settlement agreement in the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to ensure that prisoners at the Piedmont Regional Jail in Farmville, Va., receive appropriate medical and mental health care. In March 2011, the Justice Department launched an investigation, using its authority under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), into allegations that the Piedmont Regional Jail was not providing prisoners with constitutionally adequate medical care. In September 2012, the Justice Department released its findings that deficiencies in medical and mental health care at the jail exposed prisoners to an unreasonable risk of serious harm, and thus violated the Constitution. Among other things, the Department found inadequate staffing; insufficient procedures to screen and assess medical and mental health problems; and the absence of a chronic care program to treat conditions such as seizures, heart disease and hypertension. The agreement filed today resolves the Justice Department’s investigation of the Piedmont Regional Jail.
The agreement requires the jail to employ adequate, and sufficiently-credentialed, medical and mental health personnel; perform timely screening and appropriate health assessments of prisoners; establish a chronic care program and an acceptable sick call process; provide clear policies and sufficient training to its staff; exclude certain essential services and follow-up services from co-payments, and otherwise reduce co-payments so that prisoners are not deterred from seeking needed health care. The agreement also requires the jail to develop and track data to analyze the performance of medical and mental health staff and work with an independent monitor to implement the changes described in the agreement and to evaluate the jail’s success in effecting meaningful reform.
“While an offender is serving his or her sentence, the government has a duty under the Constitution to make sure that person does not suffer unreasonably, by providing sufficient medical and mental health care,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. “We commend the Piedmont Regional Jail Authority and the leadership at the Jail for their cooperation and for taking the necessary steps to ensure the health and safety of the individuals under their care.”
The investigation was conducted by the Special Litigation Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt .