Judge Orders Michigan Jails to Stop Using Shackles on Inmates

A federal judge has ordered prison officials in Michigan to immediately cease the use of non-medical, punitive restraints following the death of a mentally ill inmate who died after four days spent naked and shackled in an isolated cell.

U.S. District Judge Richard Enslen's sharply worded order, issued Monday, directly addressed the case of Timothy Joe Souders, who was serving up to four years for resisting arrest, assault and destroying police property.

Souders, 21, spent most of his last four days naked inside an isolation cell at the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility in Jackson, his arms and legs bound in shackles and sometimes lying in his own urine. He died Aug. 6, two hours after jail staff removed his restraints.

"The court finds that the defendant's practice constitutes torture and violates the Eighth Amendment," Enslen wrote in his ruling. "Its cessation is required immediately to prevent further loss of life, loss of dignity and damage to both inmates and correctional officers."

His order also requires the state's Department of Corrections to submit a plan within 45 days for how to improve mental health care for inmates. The state has contracted with Correctional Medical Services Inc., a St. Louis company, to provide health care to prisoners.

Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said the department was still reviewing the order and had no comment Monday. Following media reports that examined issues highlighted by Souders' death in August, Gov. Jennifer Granholm called for an independent review of health care in the state's prisons.

Souders' family last month filed a federal lawsuit against CMS.

The official cause of Souders' death has not been announced.