Mental health care in Alabama prisons goes on trial

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ A class-action lawsuit that accuses Alabama of failing to provide adequate mental health care to state inmates is heading to trial.

The non-jury trial begins Monday before U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson. A group of inmates filed the lawsuit in 2014 against the Alabama Department of Corrections.

Attorneys for mentally ill inmates say mental health care is so lacking that it violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. They argue ill inmates are often placed in segregation, and conditions are untreated and undiagnosed because of staff shortages.

The state has disputed the accusations.

The lawsuit is the latest complication for a prison system that has been troubled by crowding and outbreaks of violence. The U.S. Department of Justice this year launched an investigation into conditions at state prisons.