For those who are incarcerated who also have a disability, life in jail or prison may be more difficult. Department of Corrections and correctional facility workers should accommodate disabilities so as not to violate the rights of those with disabilities in prison. However, this is unfortunately not always the case. On this page, I will discuss the rights that a disabled person has in prison, common discriminatory situations that a disabled person may face, and what to do to get help if you face discrimination.
Disability Rights in Prison
Those with disabilities who are incarcerated have the following rights:
- Disabled people in prison are protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Keep in mind that the Rehabilitation Act applies to federal facilities or facilities that receive federal funding. In terms of the Americans With Disabilities Act, this applies to any local, state, or federal facility.
- Equal opportunity to participate in services and programs that you are qualified for.
- The right to housing in a safe and appropriate cell at the proper security level for your needs.
- The right to modifications to procedures and policies (within reason).
- The right to proper communication methods given your disability and needs.
Keep in mind that accomodations do not have to be made for the disabled in the event that this would impose administrative or financial burdens. Discrimination is also allowed in the event that a disabled person’s involvement in a program or service would pose a safety or health risk.
Common Examples of Discrimination
Now that you understand your rights in a prison setting, let’s discuss some common situations in which discrimination might occur. Such situations include:
- Exclusion from programs, services, or facilities (again, so long as you are qualified to participate).
- Failure to provide sign language interpreters.
- Failure to provide necessary medical equipment or devices.
- Segregation or placement in solitary confinement because of unavailability of adequate cells or because of perceived safety issues.
If you think that your rights have been violated in prison, you can take action to defend yourself. First, consider filing an official complaint, also known as a grievance, with the facility. In the event that your correctional facility has access to an ADA Coordinator, you can work with them to review your rights and file a grievance.
If you are interested in filing a lawsuit in order to defend yourself and your rights, it is in your best interest to hire a lawyer to assist you with this process. A lawyer will understand the laws involved much better than you can, and they can guide you through this process. Having a lawyer on your side will ensure that you present the best case possible in defense of your rights.
If you are interested in hiring a lawyer, consider contacting my office. I am happy to discuss your situation with you during a free consultation. I can help you determine if you have a case and the strength of your case. I can also help build your case and prove the discrimination that you faced in court. For more information on how I can help you, answers to your questions, and additional resources, contact my office.