Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) et al. v. Ahern et al.Lawsuit Aims to Stop Discriminatory Treatment of People with Disabilities Incarcerated at Santa Rita Jail
In 2012, DRA filed a lawsuit on behalf of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) and taxpayers Barbara Michel and Laura Magnani. The lawsuit alleged that Santa Rita Jail failed to provide for basic needs of people with disabilities by forcing people with mobility disabilities to live in inaccessible housing units that lacked basic wheelchair accessible facilities, such as toilets, showers, and visiting areas. The lawsuit also alleged that the Jail unnecessarily segregated some individuals with disabilities because of their disabilities, in some cases denying incarcerated individuals with disabilities access to critical rehabilitative programs, religious services, and recreation activities.
In 2016, the parties reached a momentous settlement agreement. Under the settlement, the County will make major changes to the Jail to dramatically improve access for people with disabilities, including significant physical modifications to provide wheelchair-accessible cells, showers, restrooms, dining facilities, recreation areas, visiting areas, entrances, and healthcare facilities. In addition, the County will provide American Sign Language interpreters where necessary and videophones for people incarcerated who are deaf and/or have hearing loss and use American Sign Language.
The settlement also includes updates to policies, including an updated grievance policy for incarcerated people with disabilities. Additionally, the County will retain an outside expert to evaluate its compliance with access improvements made pursuant to the settlement agreement.
The settlement does not contemplate Jail administrators increasing the number of people they incarcerate.