Iowa’s Civil Liberties Union is filing a lawsuit on behalf of a prisoner whose prescription medicine was taken away when she entered prison to serve a two-year sentence. I-C-L-U legal director Randall Wilson says the woman had a ten-year history of mental illness, and suffered from schizophrenia when she entered prison, doctors quit giving her the medicine and her condition deteriorated. Without medication that controlled her illness, the woman’s condition got worse until she suffered hallucinations, and the I-C-L-U is alleging she was punished for her behavior but still not given her medicine. Wilson says he’s heard prison officials are concerned about the case, too, and taking steps to see prisoners get better mental-health treatment. Margaret Stout is executive director of Iowa’s Alliance for the Mentally Ill.She says it’s not unheard of to find such an institution not treating mental illness, though Stout thinks they’re changing. She says withholding prescribed medication for mental illness can be just as serious as denying lifesaving medicine like insulin to a prisoner. She says without control of symptoms, a prisoner can become suicidal or even be punished with a longer jail sentence for behavior caused by the uncontrolled mental-illness symptoms. Stout says it won’t do anybody any good to deny medicine to a mentally ill inmate.She says it isn’t in the best interest of the state, prison or the person. Though some staff members told investigators the woman refused medication, records don’t show it was ever given or offered to her during her stay at the women’s prison in Mitchellville. After an emergency commitment to the Medical Center at Oakdale, the inmate was finally given the medicine for her schizophrenia, took it, and was returned to Mitchellville to finish her sentence and additional time for her behavior while she was off the drugs.
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