The Justice Department announced today that it has opened an investigation into the conditions at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth, Virginia.
The investigation will focus on whether the jail violates the constitutional rights of inmates to adequate medical and mental health care; violates the constitutional rights of inmates who have mental illness by secluding them in isolation for prolonged time periods; and violates the rights of inmates who have mental illness by denying them access to services, programs and activities because of their disability.
“All prisoners, including those with mental illness, have a constitutional right to receive necessary medical care, treatment and services,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will conduct a thorough investigation, led by the facts and the law, to review conditions in the jail.”
“We are committed to protecting the civil rights of all citizens, including those who are incarcerated,” said U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia. “Prisoners with mental illness are a particularly vulnerable population, and their rights must be safeguarded. We look forward to conducting a full and fair investigation of this matter in partnership with the Civil Rights Division.”
The department has not reached any conclusions regarding the allegations in this matter. The investigation will be conducted under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) and under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under CRIPA, the department has the authority to investigate violations of prisoners’ constitutional rights that result from a “pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of such rights.” The department has conducted CRIPA investigations of many correctional systems, and where violations have been found, the resulting settlement agreements have led to important reforms.