By: Yuritza Arroyo
The Justice Department today filed a complaint and proposed consent decree with Cumberland County and the Cumberland County Department of Corrections to resolve allegations that conditions at the Cumberland County Jail violate the Constitution.
According to officials, the proposed consent decree, which the court must still approve, resolves the United States’ 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.
Officials say 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,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said.
“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 our Constitution guarantees.”
“The opioid epidemic is a public health emergency that plagues too many communities across the country,” U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said. “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.”
“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 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.”