BATON ROUGE – Two prisoners have filed a federal class-action lawsuit against David Wade Correctional Center in Homer and the Louisiana Department of Corrections alleging that inmates are “being held in extreme, abusive conditions” and are treated with “cruel and unusual punishment,” according to the lawsuit filed on Feb. 20.
The lawsuit was filed in the Middle District of Louisiana by attorneys from the Advocacy Center and MacArthur Justice Center on behalf of plaintiffs Anthony Tellis and Bruce Charles, who are disabled prisoners serving time at David Wade Correctional Center.
The lawsuit seeks a ruling against prison employees on the abuse allegations, and a court order to end the alleged inhumane conditions that include solitary confinement and extended lockdown that spans over months or years, which allegedly has led to mental illness among inmates and made pre-existing mental illness worse, the complaint stated.
Alleged punishments range from chaining prisoners to wooden chairs to stripping them of their clothing “for days and likely weeks” and opening windows to expose them to the cold, according to the lawsuit.
“The use of extreme cold to punish behavior on the tier is not a single isolated incident and occurs so frequently that prisoners have a word for it, ‘bluesing’ or ‘getting bluesed,'" the suit stated.
Among the defendants in the lawsuit are James LeBlanc, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections; Jerry Goodwin, warden of David Wade Correctional Center; and Deborah Dauzat, assistant warden.
The suit also claims that mental health care is not provided to prisoners on extended lockdown, “aside from scattershot, poorly administered and inconsistent medication”; and that those who do request care for their mental health issues are severely punished to the point where they are unable to remain in the prison, and are transferred to another facility or released out into society, the suit said.
“Mental health screening at DWCC is a failure at every juncture, including during intake, regular screening, and in response to crisis and suicide watch," court documents stated. "Where screenings do occur, the inadequacy of the process results in under-diagnoses of serious mental illness.”
The suit claims prisoners only have access to a psychiatrist every three to six months for 10 minutes at a time, with security guards in attendance.
“If prisoners at David Wade request mental health care they are placed on 'suicide watch' which means that they are stripped of clothing and belongings, and held in a solitary confinement cell on the disciplinary tier for weeks," the suit stated.
The defendants are also accused of discriminating against disabled prisoners and “failing to provided reasonable accommodation” for them, the complaint reads.
In total, the defendants are accused of violating inmates’ First and Eighth Amendments, in addition to the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the suit claimed.
In addition to the request for a court ruling and court-ordered stop to the alleged treatment of the prisoners, the lawsuit seeks to award the plaintiffs the costs associated with legal expenses.