On January 1, 2014, deaf and hard of hearing prisoners in the Kentucky prison system filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated against the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Kentucky Department of Corrections, ...
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On January 1, 2014, deaf and hard of hearing prisoners in the Kentucky prison system filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated against the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Kentucky Department of Corrections, several other departments of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and by the Washington Lawyers' Committee Prisoners Rights Project, alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the First Amendment, and asked the court for preliminary injunctive relief, certification as a class action, declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages.
Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that the defendants discriminated against them by denying or reducing the plaintiffs' access to telecommunication equipment such as Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf (TDD) and videophones that would allow them to communicate with their friends, family and attorneys outside of the prison system. Plaintiffs who use American Sign Language were denied interpretive service resulting in the denial of governmental services like educational, employment training and opportunities, and heath care programs on the basis of their disability. Plaintiffs were also denied translation services during religious ceremonies and were not provided with an effective means of receiving prison announcements. Lastly, plaintiffs claimed that defendants failed to provide them with interpreters or other aids at disciplinary hearings, thereby denying them the right to hear the charges against them and defend themselves.
The parties reached a settlement and appointed a monitor and the court approved on June 24, 2015. The settlement required the Kentucky Department of Corrections (KDOC) to ensure a full and equal access to all services and accommodations; assign a staff member at each KDOC adult institution as an ADA coordinator; during initial intake provide effective communication, hearing assessment, and auxiliary aids and services in the form of qualified interpreters, etc.; ensure staff awareness through identification cards; provide deaf inmates with interpretation of materials; provide deaf inmates with a schedule showing when interpretation services are available; ensure deaf and hard of hearing inmates get equal access to on-site and off-site medical care, various programs, work assignments, religious services, any meetings relating to transfer and classification matters; provide interpretation for disciplinary proceedings, announcements, alarms and any other information audibly conveyed to the inmates; provide telecommunication devices and other adequate technology devices; and train KDOC employees on the implementation of new policies.
In February 2016, the monitor filed her first semi-annual report. The report stated that the payment to plaintiff and plaintiff's counsel was made; the requirement of hiring ADA Coordinators were nearly compliant; videophone installation is apparently compliant; free access to videophone, provision of qualified interpreters for unscheduled medical emergencies, and provision of qualified interpreters for disciplinary hearings were unclear; informational materials were partially compliant; the routine and situational reporting were difficult or partially noncompliant; and training was noncompliant.
In December 2016, the monitor filed her second semi-annual report. This one included in-depth discussion of needed improvements at 8 of the prisons, and proposed training for officers and staff.
The case is ongoing.Brian Kempfer - 03/10/2014
Soojin Cha - 06/23/2016