Alaska News

ACLU of Alaska sues over Department of Corrections’ rules on involuntary medication

The ACLU of Alaska is asking a judge to strike down as unconstitutional a state Department of Corrections policy on involuntary medication of people who are incarcerated, saying the policy does not adequately protect due process rights.

The organization said it filed a lawsuit against state corrections officials Wednesday on behalf of a man serving a 99-year sentence at a prison in Seward. The lawsuit says the man, who has been in department custody since 2001 and has had mental health issues while incarcerated, had been taking antipsychotic medication voluntarily but beginning in 2018 felt he no longer needed the medication.

The lawsuit alleges the man has been “forcibly injected” with medication over the past five years. It asks that he be given a judicial hearing at which evidence can be heard and he can have an attorney present before being administered any psychiatric medication “against his will.”

Melody Vidmar, an attorney with ACLU of Alaska, said the organization is seeking the same process for others who may be in a similar situation.

The complaint seeks to replace a prior claim with the court that was initiated by the man before the ACLU of Alaska represented him, said Megan Edge, a spokesperson for the organization.

Patty Sullivan, a state Department of Law spokesperson, said the assigned attorney in that matter had not yet received the documents filed Wednesday and would respond in the time provided by court rules.

Becky Bohrer, Associated Press

Becky Bohrer is a reporter for the Associated Press based in Juneau.