Judge Rules in Favor of Veteran in Oregon Prison Seeking PTSD Treatment

October 10, 2023
A judge bangs the gavel.

An Oregon judge has sided with a U.S. Army veteran who petitioned for better treatment for his post-traumatic stress disorder while incarcerated at Snake River Correctional Institution.

Michael LaSeur, an inmate at the prison, filed his habeas corpus petition at the end of December, flagging concerns about how Snake River was handling his medical conditions, health screenings and PTSD treatment. The judge’s opinion, issued last Monday, is one of the first of its kind in Oregon, according to LaSeur’s attorney Tara Herivel.

“The judge ordered them to provide PTSD treatment and care for him individually, but also for the Department of Corrections to consult with the Veterans Administration,” Herivel said. “That’s never happened.”

LaSeur sustained multiple injuries while deployed in Iraq, including a crushed cervical disc and traumatic brain injury, according to court records. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2014 for three armed robberies of pharmacies in Clackamas County, court records show.

In addition to PTSD, LaSeur has hypertension, pain related to his cervical injury, headaches and chronic pain, among other conditions, court records show. And he said he was not getting proper treatment for them.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, LaSeur told the court he was in a prison support group with other combat veterans that helped manage his PTSD symptoms. He has not been since, Herivel said, and while he has been prescribed proper medication, the court found there was a lack of mental health support, records show.

Jenefer Grant, a senior Oregon Circuit Court judge who heard the case in Malheur County, ordered Snake River to provide monthly counseling and dialectical behavior therapy — used to manage conditions like PTSD through conversation — in a support group or individually. Grant told the prison to consult experts with Veterans Affairs on best practices for alleviating PTSD, according to court records.

Grant also ordered the prison to provide MRIs for follow-up care, new pain relief medication and a stationary bike to help manage LaSeur’s blood pressure.

“It is noteworthy that our society claims to value highly the lives and welfare of our nation’s military veterans,” Grant wrote in her court opinion. “It follows, then, that the suffering in prison of a 90% combat-disabled American military veteran, from injuries incurred in the course of his service, and but for the consequences of which he might never have been incarcerated after his service, must be particularly offensive to the general public.”

The Oregon Department of Corrections declined to comment on the case. Herivel said the department will likely appeal the ruling.

©2023 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit oregonlive.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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