Justice Department Reaches Agreement with San Luis Obispo County Jail to Ensure Safe and Equal Access to its Programs for Inmates with Mobility Disabilities
(STL.News) The Justice Department today reached a settlement under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with San Luis Obispo County, California, to ensure that inmates with mobility disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in San Luis Obispo Jail’s (SLO Jail) programs, services and activities.
Based on its investigation, the United States determined that SLO Jail facilities were inaccessible to inmates with mobility disabilities and denied them equal access to the Jail’s programs, services and activities. SLO fully cooperated with the Justice Department’s investigation and indicated a commitment to remedying barriers to equal access.
“Jails and prisons across our country must ensure that their facilities are accessible to people with disabilities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that inmates with disabilities have equal access to basic necessities, such as showers and sleeping areas, and to all activities that are offered to inmates without disabilities. We commend the County for recognizing its obligations and working with the Department of Justice to bring the facilities at its jail into compliance with the law.”
“People with mobility disabilities are entitled to have access to cells and showers they can safely use while incarcerated,” said Acting United States Attorney for the Central District of California Tracy L. Wilkison. “San Luis Obispo County has taken important steps to ensure that the facilities at its jail are in compliance with the ADA.”
Under the ADA, governmental entities that operate jails or prisons must make changes necessary to ensure that inmates with mobility disabilities do not serve time in a manner that is more difficult, or less safe, than those without disabilities.
The department opened its investigation after receiving a complaint by a former inmate at SLO Jail who has a mobility disability and uses a prosthetic leg. The inmate alleged that SLO Jail failed to provide him with an accessible cell or shower, causing him to fall repeatedly and, in one instance, to break his leg. The complainant also alleged that, because of his disability, SLO Jail denied him equal opportunities for recreation and other programs, leading him to experience unnecessary isolation.
Under the agreement, SLO Jail will make architectural changes to its facilities to ensure that they are accessible to inmates with disabilities. The Jail will also train relevant staff, designate an ADA coordinator and implement an ADA complaint procedure. In addition, the Jail will pay $175,000 to the complainant to compensate him for his pain and suffering.