Bridgewater State Hospital Faces Lawsuit Over Prison Conditions

Lawyers for three patients at the state-run psychiatric prison in Bridgewater have filed a lawsuit saying that more than half the facility's patients are being wrongly held in "harsh conditions of confinement," even though they are not serving criminal sentences.

The suit filed Thursday in Norfolk Superior Court does not seek monetary damages. It calls for an end to unlawful seclusion and restraint and the transfer of more than 150 patients locked up at Bridgewater State Hospital who can be violent but haven't been convicted of crimes.

The lawsuit argues that the men need treatment, not incarceration, and the facility delivers inadequate mental health care "that would shock the conscience of a reasonable person," according to The Boston Globe.

Bridgewater State is a prison accredited as a behavioral health care provider, not a hospital, and it is ill-equipped to deliver adequate mental health care, especially in cases in which patients are severely mentally ill, said Roderick MacLeish, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

One plaintiff, Felipe Zomosa, who has paranoid schizophrenia, was placed at Bridgewater last May. He has spent more than 4,000 hours in isolation and in January was subjected to 136 hours of mechanical restraint over six days, according to the suit.

The Department of Correction said it puts patients in seclusion only for clinical reasons.

A spokesman for Gov. Deval Patrick said state officials want humane care for people suffering from mental illness but did not address the allegations directly.

"Gov. Patrick has been clear that seclusion and restraint should only be used for the most exceptional situations and only as a measure of last resort to keep individuals from harming themselves or others," spokeswoman Heather Nichols said.

This article was originally published on May 02, 2014.


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