Justice Department Secures Agreement with Cumberland County Addressing Mental Health Care, Suicide Prevention and Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opiate Withdrawal at the Cumberland County Jail
The Justice Department today filed a complaint and proposed consent decree with Cumberland County, New Jersey and the Cumberland County Department of Corrections to resolve allegations that conditions at the Cumberland County Jail violate the Constitution.
The proposed consent decree resolves the department’s claims that the jail fails to provide adequate mental health care to incarcerated individuals at risk of self-harm and suicide, and fails to provide medication-assisted treatment, where clinically indicated, to incarcerated individuals experiencing unmedicated opiate withdrawal. The proposed consent decree requires the jail to provide adequate mental health care and medication-assisted treatment in those circumstances.
“The Justice Department is committed to protecting the civil rights of everyone in our country, and under our Constitution, jails and prisons must provide adequate medical care to incarcerated individuals,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Today’s proposed consent decree is a significant step toward improving the care of individuals incarcerated in Cumberland County who are struggling with serious mental health disorders, and toward protecting the civil rights that are guaranteed by our Constitution.”
“This consent decree marks a significant milestone in the Justice Department’s efforts to combat discrimination against those with opioid use disorder and to protect the civil rights of people in our jails and prisons,” said Assistant Attorney General for Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Under this agreement, Cumberland County must provide adequate medical and mental health care, including access to life-saving medications, treatment for opiate withdrawal, and protection for those with a heightened risk of self-harm and suicide. We commend Cumberland County for working collaboratively with us to implement the reforms in this decree to protect the safety and constitutional rights of incarcerated people at Cumberland County Jail.”
“The opioid epidemic is a public health emergency that plagues too many communities across the country,” said U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger for the District of New Jersey. “Medications are a critically important tool in combatting the opioid crisis, and they save lives. By providing medication-assisted treatment to incarcerated individuals experiencing opiate withdrawal, officials at jails and prisons can take significant steps to both combat the opioid epidemic and protect the constitutional rights of their populations.”
In June 2018, following suicides at the jail by six incarcerated people denied medication-assisted treatment, the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey initiated the investigation under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. That statute authorizes the Justice Department to address a pattern or practice of deprivation of constitutional rights of individuals confined to state or local government-run correctional facilities. In January 2021, the Department found reasonable cause to believe that Cumberland County’s failure to provide medication-assisted treatment to incarcerated people with opioid use disorder, together with its failure to offer adequate mental health and suicide prevention measures, violated the rights of incarcerated individuals. The Department also identified measures necessary to remedy the unlawful conditions.
Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at https://www.justice.gov/crt/special-litigation-section. Additional information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey’s Civil Rights Division is available at: https://www.justice.gov/usao-nj/civil-rights-enforcement. Individuals with relevant information about compliance with the agreement are encouraged to contact the Department by phone at 833-223-1547, or by email at Cumberlandcounty.email@example.com.