Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC worked with Disability Rights Louisiana and the ACLU of Louisiana to certify a class action in the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana against the Louisiana Department of Corrections and David Wade Correctional Center (DWCC) on behalf of DWCC inmates. Plaintiffs allege that DWCC’s practice of “extended lockdown” of prisoners violates the First and Eighth of the U.S. Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) , and the Rehabilitation Act.
DWCC, a prison in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, routinely places inmates in “extended lockdown” – confinement to a cell, often for 23-24 hours per day, without regular social interaction, exercise, or rehabilitative programming .
Extended lockdown triggers and exacerbates mental illness, even at times inducing self-harm. Plaintiffs allege that conditions in extended lockdown unconstitutionally place DWCC prisoners at substantial risk of serious harm, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiffs also allege that DWCC’s use of extended lockdown discriminates against DWCC prisoners with mental illness in violation of the ADA and Rehabilitation Act.
Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief limiting the use of solitary confinement; requiring diversion of prisoners with mental health disabilities to treatment facilities; requiring that prisoners be provided access to rehabilitative programming, TV and radio, visitation, and phone calls; prohibiting stripping prisoners of their clothing, property, or mattress; and requiring DWCC to overhaul its system for identifying, preventing, and treating prisoners’ mental health conditions.
On September 20, 2021, the Court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification, certifying as a class all DWCC prisoners who are or will be placed in extended lockdown. In addition, the Court certified as a subclass all prisoners in extended lockdown who have or are perceived as having a mental health disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Case name: Tellis et al. v. LeBlanc et al., Civil Action No. 5:18-cv-00541, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.