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Judge Okays Settlement in Delaware's Mentally Ill Inmate Case

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DOVER, Del. (AP)- A federal judge has approved a settlement in a lawsuit alleging that mentally ill inmates in Delaware have been subjected to solitary confinement without proper evaluation, monitoring and treatment.
Under the settlement approved late last week, the Department of Correction will limit the length of time that inmates spend in disciplinary housing and will increase the amount of unstructured recreation time available to inmates in certain maximum security settings.
Inmates in restrictive housing, formerly known as solitary confinement, traditionally have been kept in their cells for up to 72 hours at a time, with only three hours outside their cells each week for exercise and showers.
When the agreement is fully implemented, most inmates in restrictive housing will be granted at least 17.5 hours outside their cells each week.
The DOC also has agreed to undertake steps to better classify, track and care for prisoners with mental health issues and in restrictive housing, including creating a special needs unit at the women's prison in New Castle. The DOC also will construct a new building at the maximum security prison in Smyrna to provide more programming and treatment for inmates in restrictive housing.
State officials also agreed in settling the lawsuit to pay $500,000 to the Community Legal Aid Society for attorney fees and costs.

Don Rush is the News Director and Senior Producer of News and Public Affairs at Delmarva Public Media. An award-winning journalist, Don reports major local issues of the day, from sea level rise, to urban development, to the changing demographics of Delmarva.