On January 4, 2011, visually impaired and blind inmates at Sullivan and Wende Correctional Facilities filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs, represented by Legal Aid and private attorneys, asked the court for declaratory and ...
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On January 4, 2011, visually impaired and blind inmates at Sullivan and Wende Correctional Facilities filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs, represented by Legal Aid and private attorneys, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief. The plaintiffs sued the State of New York for violations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the American with Disabilities Act, alleging discriminatory denial of access to services, activities and programs on the basis of their disabilities. Specifically, the plaintiffs claim that the State of New York denied them access to adequate medical care and reasonable accommodations with regard to both mobility and reading materials, among other things.
On March 14, 2014, the court (Judge James L. Cott) released an order certifying settlement class. Attached to this order was a copy of the private settlement agreement negotiated by both parties. The agreement provided that the Department of Corrections shall provide visually impaired prisoners with any reasonable accommodation recommended by a medical professional. It also provided that visually impaired prisoners will have their glasses replaced at no cost as long as the glasses were not negligently lost or broken; that the law library will have two PCs with assistive programs; that law clerks will be on hand to assist visually impaired prisoners with their legal research; that the correctional facilities will have games, books, and legal forms appropriate for use by the visually impaired; and many other things. It also included that the Department of Corrections would pay attorneys' fees to plaintiffs' counsel.
This private settlement agreement was intended to last two years, with a possibility of adding two more years if the Department of Corrections was deemed to not be following it adequately. Moreover, many of the provisions in the settlement agreement were to be added to the official facility policies of the Sullivan and Wende Correctional Facility.
On July 22, 2014, Judge Cott released a final judgment, creating the effective date of the private settlement agreement and dismissing the lawsuit with prejudice. Judge Cott ordered to keep the docket open for letters from plaintiffs about whether the correctional facilities have been following the provisions of the settlement agreement. The settlement agreement is currently due to expire on July 22, 2016, though it is possible that it will be extended for an additional two years. Kat Brausch - 02/25/2016