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Deaf and Hard of Hearing Prisoners Win Class Action Lawsuit Against MDOC

ASL Interpreter

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Prisoners Win Class Action Lawsuit
Court finds MDOC failed to provide assistive technology

 

A federal district judge recently ruled in favor of plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). The lawsuit, which was filed in 2015 by Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service, Inc. (MPAS) and co-counsel, represented several inmates who are deaf and hard of hearing whose rights were violated under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

According to the lawsuit, MDOC failed to provide necessary accommodations to prisoners that would allow them to have equal access to hearings, medical and religious services, programs and activities. These accommodations included video relay, American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters and others.

On March 9, 2018, federal district judge, Sean Cox, granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgement, denying MDOC’s claim. The judge ordered that MDOC must provide the following:
 

  1. Videophones available to all deaf and hard of hearing prisoners;
  2. Necessary auxiliary aids for all deaf and hard of hearing prisoners to participate equally in prison programs and services
  3. ASL interpreters for all “high-stakes” interactions and programs, including religious services;
  4. Mandatory training for MDOC’s correctional officers and staff on how to identify and appropriately interact with deaf and hard of hearing prisoners;
  5. Effective and comprehensive policies and procedures in each of the above areas.

“We are very pleased with the Court’s decision,” said Chris Davis, staff attorney for MPAS. “It acknowledges the importance of the rights of persons who are deaf and hard of hearing to equal access to services and programs even while in prison. The class members will be better prepared to return to society and succeed when they are paroled.”

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Posted on:
March 20, 2018