HARTFORD, Conn. A U.S. District Court judge has ordered state prison officials to give a watchdog agency the records of eight inmates who died while in prison.
Judge Dominic J. Squatrito's ruling came in a lawsuit filed in June 2001 by the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities.
The state Department of Correction had denied the watchdog agency access to the mental health and medical records of the inmates.
The lawsuit contended that the denial of access violated federal law and the First Amendment rights of the protection and advocacy office.
Executive Director James D. McGaughey, who initially requested the records in fall 2000, was pleased by the ruling.
"This is a big win for us," McGaughey said on April 7.
McGaughey's office is seeking information about the deaths of inmates Kevin Favor, Gregg Kirwan, James Brisson, Kenneth Vasquez, Bryant Wiseman, Daniel Cramer, Jason Brewer and an inmate whose identity has not been released.
Wiseman died while being restrained. The deaths of the other seven men, who all died in their cells, have been classified as suicides.
The agency is mandated by state and federal law to investigate abuse, neglect and civil rights violations and pursue administrative, legal and other remedies on behalf of individuals with mental illness.
"All we are really trying to do is determine if the screening was adequate and if they had requested services," McGaughey said. "I think we need to look at this especially since there [are] an increasing number of people with mental illness entering prisons."