Friday, June 7, 2013

Judge Rules in favor of Deaf Inmates

Deaf California prison inmates must get access to sign language interpreters when they are put in solitary confinement, a federal judge has ruled. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken says the ADA rights of deaf prisoners are being violated. She said the state is also violating section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. In 2001, a state plan to deal with the issue was put in place, but over the years, various courts have said California corrections officials have not hired enough interpreters to provide for the needs of prisoners. In her ruling, the Northern District of California judge wrote:
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken 
Plaintiffs also have offered declarations from deaf prisoners who have been in administrative segregation, who felt depressed and who wanted or attempted to hurt themselves. They said that they wanted to tell the mental health staff about their feelings but could not communicate with them. To the extent that Defendants argue that deaf prisoners were not harmed because none have actually succeeded at committing suicide since this policy was implemented, the court need not wait until a death to require compliance with its orders. The court already found in the 2007 order that Defendants had consistently and systematically denied sign language interpreters to deaf prisoners, including to suicidal prisoners, causing them significant harm.
Wilken warned corrections officials that she wants to see the problem quickly addressed.