On September 17, 2010, prisoners with physical disabilities within the custody of the North Carolina Department of Corrections ("DOC") filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, ...
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On September 17, 2010, prisoners with physical disabilities within the custody of the North Carolina Department of Corrections ("DOC") filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq., and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794. The plaintiffs, represented by North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services, brought the suit against the state of North Carolina. They asked the Court for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that defendants discriminated against them. Specifically, they alleged that by reason of their disabilities, defendants denied them the benefits of the DOC's sentence reduction credit programs.
Prisoners within the DOC can earn credits that shorten their terms of incarceration if they work or participate in certain programs. Pursuant to the medical gain time policy, the DOC grants disabled inmates sentence reduction credits only if it determines that they are medically unfit to participate in the traditional sentence reduction credit programs. The plaintiffs alleged that the DOC's definition of "medically unfit" misclassified numerous disabled prisoners and excluded them from participation in the medical gain time program even when they were physically unable to participate in traditional sentence reduction credit programs. Furthermore, even when disabled prisoners were given the opportunity to earn sentence reduction credits through the medical gain time policy, the DOC discriminated against them by providing the opportunity to earn credits at two-thirds the rate available to non-disabled prisoners.
On September 19, 2011, Judge Terrence Boyle granted class certification. The class was defined as all present and future disabled prisoners of the DOC "who have been, and may in the future be, discriminated against, excluded from participation in, and denied the benefits of the DOC's sentence reduction credit programs by reason of their disabilities."
On August 15, 2013, Judge Boyle approved the parties' stipulated consent decree. The agreement mandated that the DOC establish, implement, and modify its policies to provide access to sentence reduction credits to qualified prisoners with disabilities. The plaintiffs' attorneys must have an opportunity to review and comment on the proposed policy changes. Additionally, the DOC must create various new full-time positions, including a position dedicated to monitoring the implementation of the new policies and the consent decree. The DOC was required to pay for expenses associated with the implementation of the consent decree. The requirements of the agreement are set to terminate two years following the date of entry. Nate West - 11/11/2014