THE LATEST: On June 17, 2022 the two week trial to determine what remedies are appropriate for the violations in light of current conditions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola concluded.
The lack of medical care at Angola–a plantation prison larger than the island of Manhattan–continues to inflict cruel and unusual punishment upon the people who are forced to live at the prison. Years of persistent violations show that prospective relief is paramount to bringing Angola’s health care system into compliance with federal law.
Individuals incarcerated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola (known as Angola) needlessly suffer from chronic pain, permanent injury, and preventable sickness and death as a result of prison officials’ failure to provide adequate medical care. State employees at Angola routinely and systemically fail to properly assess, diagnose and treat the medical problems of people who are incarcerated.
In 2015, a class action lawsuit, Lewis v. Cain, was filed against the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections by 16 people with disabilities or serious medical needs incarcerated at Angola. Several of these individuals passed away during the course of the litigation as a result of cancers that were not timely detected or strokes that were not timely treated.
The lawsuit claims that Angola is violating the:
- Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment” by neglecting the serious medical needs of prisoners.
- Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, on behalf of incarcerated people with mobility issues who are physically unable to access parts of the prison.
In challenging the inadequate medical care, the lawsuit asserts that the prison’s more than 4,000 incarcerated individuals are all at risk of serious harm, while scores of men have already experienced unnecessary injury, suffering and death.
In 2021, a federal judge ruled that state corrections officials have, for years, been “deliberately indifferent” to the medical needs of individuals incarcerated at Angola.
In the year since the ruling calling medical care at Angola unconstitutional, the prison has made insufficient changes in virtually every area contributing to the “widespread” deficiencies in health care.
A remedy hearing is scheduled to begin on June 6, 2022. Prison officials must start fulfilling their constitutional obligation to provide adequate medical care and disability accommodations to everyone incarcerated there, no matter how young or old, healthy or sick.
Plaintiffs are represented by the Promise of Justice Initiative, Democracy Forward Foundation, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Cohen Milstein, the ACLU of Louisiana, and Disability Rights Louisiana. Mercedes Montagnes, Promise of Justice Initiative’s Executive Director, and Jeffrey Dubner, Democracy Forward’s Deputy Legal Director, serve as co-lead counsel.