- Associated Press - Saturday, February 11, 2017

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Lawyers for Alabama prison inmates have asked a federal judge to force the state to put additional suicide prevention measures in place, arguing the state is not abiding by an agreement reached last month to put suicidal inmates under closer monitoring.

In response to the request, U.S. Magistrate Judge John E. Ott ordered lawyers for the Department of Corrections and inmates to attend a settlement conference Monday.

The state in January agreed to temporary additional protections after a prisoner killed himself. His death came days after he testified in the class-action lawsuit alleging Alabama provides inadequate psychiatric care.

The temporary agreement, which will be in place for 60 days, says inmates referred for evaluation for suicide risk assessment will be kept under “constant watch” until they have been evaluated by a mental health professional. Severely suicidal inmates were to be kept on constant watch and others at risk of suicide would be kept on close watch.

In a motion filed Thursday, lawyers for inmates said the watches and other aspects of the agreement were not being followed.

“Defendants have not fully implemented the Interim Agreement intended to save the lives of ADOC prisoners,” Maria Morris of the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote.

Bob Horton, spokesman for the state prison system disputed the accusation.

“The ADOC has vigorously taken action to follow the agreement as ordered by the court. Attorneys representing the ADOC in the case are assessing SPLC’s recent motion,” Horton responded in an email.

Attorneys for inmates sought new protections following the suicide of inmate Jamie Wallace, who hanged himself days after testifying in the class-action lawsuit filed by inmates against the state prison system.

The state has denied that Alabama inmates receive inadequate mental health treatment.

Wallace testified at the Dec. 5 opening of the federal trial. Wallace described having multiple psychiatric disorders and claimed a prison officer once offered him a razor to use to kill himself. He also testified he had tried to hang himself at least once before.

Wallace was serving 25 years for murder in Jefferson County, where court records show he pleaded guilty in 2011 to killing his mother, Michele Ann Wallace. Wallace initially pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness.

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