A federally funded watchdog group has launched an investigation into the alleged abuse and neglect of inmates at Bridgewater State Hospital, interviewing staff and inmates this week about reports that guards and clinicians are illegally putting mentally ill men into physical restraints and isolation cells.
Lawyers from the Disability Law Center, designated under federal law to investigate complaints about the abuse of disabled people, converged on the medium-security prison Tuesday to meet with administrators, gather records, and meet with patients, the Department of Correction confirmed Wednesday.
“We are acting pursuant to our concern that individuals with mental illness are subject to abuse and neglect at the facility, including but not limited to a deep concern about the amount of restraint and seclusion,” the center’s executive director, Christine M. Griffin, wrote in an April 8 letter to state Public Safety Secretary Andrea Cabral.
If Disability Law Center officials conclude they have found wrongdoing, they could file a federal lawsuit against the state to force changes. In 2007, the center sued the department over allegations that the state’s prison system was subjecting mentally ill prison inmates to cruel and unusual punishment by placing them in solitary confinement for long periods and won significant concessions.
This time, Griffin wrote in her letter, the center is launching its open-ended review after receiving complaints from “various individuals” and seeing “numerous media reports about improper treatment of patients at BSH.”
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