Mental and Physical Health Care

Because people locked up in prisons and jails cannot visit their own doctor or walk to the pharmacy up the street, the government takes on an obligation to provide them with health care while they are incarcerated. But the quality of care is often so poor that it does not meet constitutional standards. The results can be tragic – too often measured in deaths and catastrophic injury.

We fight for decent medical and mental health treatment of incarcerated men and women to make sure their prison sentences do not become death sentences.

Our Priorities

While the national prison population is declining, the percentage of mentally ill behind bars is actually growing. Jails and prisons are neither designed nor equipped to function as the de facto mental health institutions they've become. When combined with the near limitless discretion given to prison officials, already vulnerable prisoners can find themselves on the receiving of cruel, violent abuse with little recourse.


A federal class action lawsuit filed against the Louisiana Department of Corrections and David Wade Correctional Center (DWCC) for subjecting prisoners to cruel, debilitating conditions, including severe punishment for mentally ill and suicidal prisoners. DWCC subjects hundreds of prisoners to “extended lockdown”, which confines an individual to a cell for 23-24 hours per day with little to no human contact. The trauma inflicted by DWCC has created and worsened mental illness and led to numerous attempts at self-harm and suicide.

Jails and prisons are responsible for protecting the health and safety of those within their custody yet inmate suicides remain disturbingly frequent. Suicide remains the most common death for the incarcerated. These lives are lost largely without explanation and lacking of institutional recognizance or reform. The MacArthur Justice Center seeks justice on behalf of those who took their own lives due to the neglect and cruelty of prison officials.


Joshua Jurcich, a young man living with mental illness, committed suicide as a result of the abuse and neglect he experienced while held in the St. Clair County Jail at Belleville, Illinois in 2014. St. Clair County Sheriff’s officers held Mr. Jurcich in isolation, physically beat him and mocked his threats of suicide. We represent the estate of Mr. Jurcichi in a lawsuit against St. Clair County Jail.


Two months after Joshua Jurcich had committed suicide by hanging in the St. Clair County Jail, Bradley Scarpi informed a correctional officer that he wanted to kill himself. The officer responded, “whatever, do what you want to do.” Five hours later, Mr. Scarpi was found hanging by a bedsheet. We represent the estate of Mr. Scarpi in a lawsuit against St. Clair County Jail.

The medically accepted standard of care, relying on the use of direct-acting antiviral drugs, cures at least 90% of Hepatitis C (HCV) cases. However, in jails and prisons, environments highly susceptible to HCV transmission, the focus continues to be only on cost, rather than care. It is estimated that one in seven state inmates have HCV. Only one percent is actually receiving treatment.


In Missouri, at least 10-15% of the incarcerated population is infected with HCV. However, recent data showed that only 0.11 percent of inmates are actually getting treatment. The MacArthur Justice Center and the ACLU of Missouri jointly filed a federal class action lawsuit challenging the Missouri Department of Corrections’ (MDOC) systematic denial of potential life-saving medication to inmates with chronic Hepatitis C (HCV).

Private companies that contract with the government – like prison medical care companies – make massive profits while enjoying special protections against suit when they violate the Constitution.


In an amicus brief in Gaston v. Ghosh, we urge the Seventh Circuit to abandon these special rules and hold private companies accountable when they break the law.

Latest Developments

December 6, 2018

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s certification of Postawko. v. Missouri Department of Corrections, our class-action lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Corrections and its private medical provider, Corizon LLC, for their inhumane, unconstitutional treatment of inmates with chronic hepatitis C.


February 20, 2018

Class Action Lawsuit (Tellis v. LeBlanc) Filed against Louisiana Prison Subjecting Prisoners to Cruel, Debilitating Conditions, including Severe Punishment for Mentally Ill and Suicidal Prisoners

June 28, 2017

Lawsuit (Postawko, et. al v. Missouri Department of Corrections) Targeting Missouri Dept. of Corrections’ Neglect of Inmates with Hep C Certified as Class Action