September 9, 2019
CONTACT: Mark McCormick, Director of Strategic Communications, 913-490-4103,
OVERLAND PARK, KS - The Kansas and Missouri American Civil Liberties Union affiliates sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons on September 6 on behalf of a newly admitted inmate who could die because prison officials prohibit a lifesaving drug used to treat his opioid addiction.
A hearing to determine whether Leaman Crews will have access to necessary medical treatment is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday, September 11 at the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Kansas City, Kansas, in courtroom 463.
“It really wouldn’t be a stretch to call this denial of Mr. Crews’ treatment a death sentence,” said ACLU of Kansas Legal Director Lauren Bonds. “Every minute we wait is another minute of suffering for him.”
Legal Director and interim Executive Director of the ACLU of Missouri, Tony Rothert, said multiple federal agencies have embraced the medical consensus that the standard of care to treat opioid use disorder is Medication for Addiction Treatment, or MAT.
“The medical consensus doesn’t change in the correctional environment,” Rothert said. “U.S. Attorneys' offices have even initiated investigations against state and local correctional institutions that withhold MAT from inmates.”
Current Bureau of Prisons (BOP) policy categorically denies all inmates access to the drug buprenorphine for opioid use disorder treatment. Doctors have used buprenorphine in the past year to restore Crews’ health and to keep his life-threatening symptoms at bay.
“…Crews has a deadly medical condition for which he receives FDA-approved and doctor-prescribed medication that keeps him alive,” said the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court.
Unless the court intervenes, BOP officials will continue to withhold Mr. Crews’ medication. This policy likely violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, as well as multiple federal statutes, the complaint said.
Crews entered the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth on September 4 to serve a 36-month term. He became addicted to opioids after a car accident left him racked with unbearable back pain.
Further denial of the treatment could cost Crews his life since people can and do die from withdrawal, which buprenorphine staves off. 
Persistent and untreated vomiting and diarrhea, which usually accompany withdrawal, can lead to dehydration, hypernatraemia (elevated blood sodium levels) and resultant heart failure.
All such deaths, however, are preventable given appropriate medical intervention.
The lawsuit makes clear that BOP policy imminently threatens Crews’ ongoing recovery and his physical and mental health.
“Absent an injunction, the BOP’s policy will cause Crews to suffer painful withdrawal and will place him at a high risk of relapse, overdose, and death,” the lawsuit reads. “Accordingly, Crews seeks emergency injunctive relief to require the BOP to provide him with continued access to his medically necessary, physician-prescribed medication to treat his opioid use disorder.”
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About the ACLU of Kansas: The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, visit our website at