Georgia is denying equal access for deaf inmates in prison

Generic Picture of American Prison

Georgia isn’t doing enough to help deaf and partially deaf people communicate while they’re locked up and after they’re released, which can lead to longer incarceration and more returns to prison, according to a new version of a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday.

The new complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia accuses three state agencies of failing to provide deaf and partially deaf inmates, probationers and parolees with interpreters and other tools to communicate effectively. That violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, the lawsuit says.

The inability to communicate means they can’t adequately get basic information like rules and aren’t able to participate in educational, religious and vocational programs, it says.

As a result, “deaf and hard of hearing people are incarcerated more frequently, suffer harsher prison conditions, remain in prison longer, and return to prison faster,” the lawsuit says.

Jerry Coen, who is deaf, was an inmate when he filed a handwritten lawsuit in August 2016 and an updated version in January 2017 against corrections officials. The ACLU on Wednesday filed a motion to expand the scope of his lawsuit and seek class-action status.

The new complaint accompanying the motion was filed on behalf of Coen, who is now out of prison, and 13 other current and former inmates against the Department of Corrections, the Department of Community Supervision, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles and various state officials.

It says there are 134 people with significant hearing loss in prison in Georgia and an estimated 500 under state supervision.

Article extracted from Associated Press – 20th June 2018