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Mast v. Donahue

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

July 23, 2019

BRIAN MAST, MICHAEL WOODS, EUGENE WELLS on their own behalf and on behalf of a class of those similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
J. DAVID DONAHUE in his official capacity as Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Correction, CRAIG HANKS in his official capacity as Superintendent of the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, Defendants.

          ORDER

          James Patrick Hanlon United States District Judge

         On March 18, 2019, the parties filed a Stipulation to Terminate the Private Settlement Agreement Following Notice to the Class and Approval by the Court (“the Stipulated Agreement”). On June 20, 2019, the Court conducted a fairness hearing, as required under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e). For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that the Stipulated Agreement is fair, reasonable, and adequate, and approves the termination of the Private Settlement Agreement. Dkt. [138].

         I. Facts and Background

         Plaintiffs are a class of prisoners who were housed in the Secured Housing Unit (“SHU”) at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility (“Wabash Valley”). Their complaint sought to “[e]njoin defendants from housing mentally ill prisoners in the SHU under the conditions described in this Complaint.” Dkt. 1 at 14.

         A. The Mast Agreement

         On January 30, 2007, the parties filed their Private Settlement Agreement (“Mast Agreement”), dkt. 75-1, which the Court found to be fair, reasonable, and adequate under Rule 23, dkt. 104. The Mast Agreement prohibits, among other things, seriously mentally ill prisoners from being housed in the SHU (now called the Secured Confinement Unit “SCU”) at Wabash Valley. Seedkt. 75-1 at 2-3 (¶¶ 7-9, 11).

         The Mast Agreement defines “seriously mentally ill” as: (1) prisoners who have a current diagnosis, or evidence, of any Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV) Axis I diagnosis or who are receiving treatment for such a diagnosis; or (2) prisoners who have been diagnosed with a mental disorder that is worsened by confinement in the SCU. Id. at ¶ 10.

         On December 31, 2009, the case was dismissed without prejudice, subject to reinstatement by Plaintiffs or class members pursuant to the Mast Agreement. Dkt. 133. Since being dismissed, the Mast Agreement has remained in full force and effect.

         B. The IPAS Agreement

         In 2008, the Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission sued the Indiana Department of Correction (“DOC”) alleging that the continued confinement of mentally ill prisoners in segregation and segregation-like settings without appropriate mental health care and treatment violated prisoners' constitutional rights. Ind. Prot. and Advocacy Servs. Comm'n, et al. v. Comm'r, Ind. Dep't of Corr., 1:08-cv-1317 (S.D. Ind.) (hereinafter “IPAS”). Following a bench trial, the Court concluded that the “Plaintiffs have prevailed as to their Eighth Amendment Claim.” IPAS, dkt. 279 at 36.

         The Court did not enter final judgment. Rather, in 2016, the parties in IPAS entered into a private settlement agreement (the “IPAS Agreement”), id., dkt. 496, which the Court found to be fair, reasonable, and adequate, id., dkt. 508.

         The definition of “seriously mentally ill” in the IPAS Agreement is different from the definition used in the Mast Agreement as it does not include every Axis I DMS-IV diagnosis. Id., dkt. 496.

         The IPAS Agreement prohibits housing seriously mentally ill prisoners from being housed in segregation/restrictive housing (including protective custody) if they are known to be seriously mentally ill for more than thirty days. Id., (¶¶ 29-30). Additionally, the IPAS Agreement requires the DOC to remove prisoners from segregation/restrictive housing (including protective custody) if they are found to be or become seriously mentally ill subsequent to such housing. Id. There are two exceptions to this for prisoners who: (1) are deemed too dangerous to move out of the segregation units, or (2) desire to stay in the segregation units. Id. (¶¶ 32-33). The plaintiffs can reinstate the case if they believe that the DOC is not complying with terms in the IPAS Agreement. Id.

         The IPAS Agreement was scheduled to expire on March 25, 2019. Id. On March 18, 2019, the parties stipulated to extend the IPAS Agreement to the later of: a) one year from the date of the Mast Agreement's termination; or b) the date this Court prevents the Mast Agreement from terminating. IPAS, dkt. 649.

         C. ...


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