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Connecticut Prisoner Obtains Settlement in Civil Rights Case

Connecticut Prisoner Obtains Settlement in Civil Rights Case

by Derek Gilna

Jerome Riddick, who has acknowledged he has a variety of mental disabilities, suffered for many years in the State of Connecticut’s prison system; at one point he was held in administrative segregation for six years without treatment. After filing multiple lawsuits challenging his conditions of confinement, Riddick finally won a settlement guaranteeing him appropriate mental health care as well as monetary damages.

Riddick alleged in his federal lawsuit that he is “a seriously mentally ill inmate” who had been diagnosed with “bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder.” Despite the fact that he has taken medication for those disorders since childhood, the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) denied him appropriate treatment, transferring him to the Northern Correctional Institution, which lacked treatment facilities for mentally ill prisoners.

Riddick was placed in administrative segregation at Northern, where he was in a sensory deprivation cell for 23 hours a day, forced to eat all meals in his cell, “removed from his cell only for recreation one hour a day and for showers three days a week, placed in full restraints when moved from his cell, precluded from having contact visits,” and similarly restricted with respect to phone calls and work assignments. He also alleged that he had been harassed by other prisoners and prison staff due to his mental illness.

Riddick argued that the lack of treatment and his conditions of confinement constituted “deliberate indifference,” and further aggravated his mental health condition. According to his complaint he suffered from delusions, hallucinations, self-abuse and self-mutilation.

Under the terms of the settlement, the DOC agreed to transfer Riddick to a facility where he will receive mental health care, physical examinations and prompt treatment for any health conditions; further, the DOC agreed to restore his institutional privileges, including commissary privileges, provided he abides by institutional rules. He will not be confined in administrative segregation and will have access to a mediator to resolve problems. He will also receive $5,000 in damages from the state.

Specifically, the DOC agreed to transfer Riddick to the Garner Correctional Institution – the facility with the greatest range of services for the mentally ill. Importantly, it promised never to move him back to Northern, “or to any other Department of Correction facility more restrictive than Garner,” unless the Director of Mental Health first examined him and made a determination regarding his mental health status and the appropriateness of the transfer.

Although the lawsuit settled in March 2014, Riddick filed a motion to reopen the case in April 2015, informing the federal district court that the state had, in violation of the settlement, placed him in administrative segregation at the Cheshire Correctional Institution. Although the DOC initially agreed to release Riddick from segregation after 45 days if he not commit any infractions during that time and did not litigate the DOC’s “technical breach of the settlement agreement,” at the end of the 45-day period Riddick remained in solitary.

While that issue was resolved in May 2015 following a court hearing, Riddick filed another motion to reopen the case the following month, accusing the DOC of breaching its previous agreement by improperly regressing him to Administrative Segregation phase 2 and refusing to let him possess “social mail, magazines and other property that he is permitted to have in his cell as a phase 2 inmate.”

The district court denied Riddick’s second motion to reopen on August 25, 2015, “without prejudice to filing a new complaint seeking to enforce the settlement agreement.” See: Riddick v. State of Connecticut, U.S.D.C. (D. Conn.), Case No. 3:13-cv-656-SRU.


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Related legal case

Riddick v. State of Connecticut