ADA and Prisons

These are selected cases on issue of applicability of Americans With Disabilities Act to prisons. Cases go both ways. First listed are those saying ADA does NOT apply, followed by those which say ADA DOES apply. This is not exhaustive list; it is intended to give a flavor for current caselaw.

A case to watch is the 3d Cir.'s INMATES OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY in which, in September, 1996, a pro-ADA panel opinion was
withdrawn when the 3d Cir ordered the case be reheard en banc.

    Cases holding ADA does NOT apply to prisons 
    Cases holding ADA DOES apply to prisons

ADA does not apply to prisons

BRYANT v MADIGAN, 84 F.3d 246 (7th Cir. 1996). Paraplegic inmate sued prison employees under Eighth Amendment and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for refusing request for guardrails for bed and denying him pain medication. HELD: No claim under ADA.

QUOTE Court: Under ADA, re prisoners, "Even if such persons are protected, however, which we need not decide (for Congress may not have wanted to burden the states with the potentially enormous costs of making their prisons fully accessible to disabled visitors and employees), it would not necessarily follow that prisons or jails that offer educational or vocational programs for prisoners must redesign their programs to accommodate the needs of disabled prisoners. It is very far from clear that prisoners should be considered "qualified individual[s]" within the meaning of the Act. Could Congress really have intended disabled prisoners to be mainstreamed into an already highly restricted prison society?

Most rights of free Americans, including constitutional rights such as the right to free speech, to the free exercise of religion, and to marry, are curtailed when asserted by prisoners; and there are formidable practical objections to burdening prisons with having to comply with the onerous requirements of the Act, especially when we reflect that alcoholism and other forms of addiction are disabilities within the meaning of the Act and afflict a substantial proportion of the prison population."

* * *

"Even if there were (as we doubt) some domain of applicability of the Act to prisoners, the Act would not be violated by a prison's simply failing to attend to the medical needs of its disabled prisoners. No discrimination is alleged; Bryant was not treated worse because he was disabled. His complaint is that he was not given special accommodation." END QUOTE

WHITE v. COLORADO, 82 F.3d 364, (10th Cir.1996). HELD: ADA does not apply to prison employment situations TORCASIO V.
MURRAY, 57 F.3d 1340 (4th Cir.1995), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 116 S.Ct. 772, 133 L.Ed.2d 724 (1996). Court implied that ADA does not apply to state prisons. HELD: at the time of the alleged discrimination, it was not clearly established that the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act apply to state prisons, and, consequently, the defendant prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity under these statutes.

CRAWFORD v. INDIANA DEPT. OF CORRECTION, 937 F.Supp. 785 (N.D. Ind. 1996). Blind inmate initiated suit under Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act against prison, claiming he was denied access (with or without reasonable accommodations) to prison programs. On motion for judgment on pleadings, HELD that neither ADA nor Rehabilitation Act were applicable to inmate's claims that he was denied access to programs, services, facilities, activities, and benefits which were routinely available to general population of offenders. Absent clear statement of intent by Congress to cover prisons, prisons are not covered by ADA.

PIERCE v. KING, 918 F.Supp. 932 (E.D. N. Ca. 1996) Prisoner suit. HELD: ADA did not create cause of action for inmate displeased with his prison work assignment.

SUMMARY: Court found that effects of prison labor upon interstate commerce were not sufficiently substantial to legitimate application of labor laws such as ADA to state prisons, and, even if some positive rights to receive entitlement benefits under ADA were rooted in Fourteenth Amendment, the requisite employment and public access relationships did not exist between prisoners and prisons, and Fourteenth Amendment did not create positive right to prison work assignments.

LITTLE v. LYCOMING COUNTY, 912 F.Supp. 809 (M.D. Pa. 1996) Inmate sued county prison and officials, and medical personnel at
prison, re denial of medical care, and re exposure to cigarette smoke. HELD: ADA is not applicable to facilities provided for prisoners in prisons. Court: ADA would cover prison operations only if Congress clearly expressed intent to apply to prisons. Federalism principles apply with special force re prisons.

STAPLES v. VIRGINIA DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, 904 F.Supp. 487 (E.D. Va. 1995) Paraplegic inmate sued state prison system and
correctional management company under ADA. HELD: ADA does not appl;y in state prison context.

KING v. EDGAR, __ F.Supp. __ (N.D. Ill., Dec. 4, 1996). Prisoner sued Governor and prison officials. Issue for court: whether to permit in forma pauperis filing, for which court needs to consider substantiality of claims sought to be presented. Plaintiff alleged he is schizophrenic, assigned to a special treatment center, and is discriminated against in that he is denied good time credit for educational programs, while other prisoners get such credit. Claim under ADA is presented. HELD: ADA does not apply to prisons.

QUOTE Although: "The term "public entity" is defined to include any department, agency, or instrumentality of state or local government; prisons and correctional programs are not excluded. Æ 42 U.S.C. s 12131(1)." the ADA does not apply to prisons. See next quote. QUOTE "This court agrees with the Seventh Circuit that it is so unlikely thatCongress envisioned mandating equal participation for disabled prisoners that an exception should be inferred. Congress determined that free disabled citizens should be entitled to share in the benefits state and local governments provide for their able-bodied citizens. The exclusion of disabled citizens from civic benefits and services paid for with their taxes
appeared unjust. But persons imprisoned as a punishment for crime, whether disabled or not, receive benefits such as educational programs by the grace of the state, not as a matter of entitlement. [FN2] As a practical matter, since the states are not required to provide educational opportunities for prisoners, if they were required to provide programs tailored for disabled individuals as a condition of offering them to non-disabled individuals, states could well decide to offer none at all. I would therefore be inclined to agree with Magistrate Judge Pierce in Æ
Crawford v. Indiana Department of Corrections, 937 F.Supp. 785 (N.D. Ind. 1996), who held that neither the Rehabilitation Act nor the ADA apply to state prisoners." END QUOTE

ADA does apply to prisons

INMATES OF THE ALLEGHENY COUNTY JAIL v. WECHT, 93 F.3d 1124 WITHDRAWN. This is at 1996 WL 474106 (3rd Cir.(Pa.)
The 3d Cir. decided that the ADA does apply to prisons in its August 22, 1996 panel opinion in this case. However, this opinion was VACATED on September 20, 1996 when the court en banc granted rehearing en banc. The panel opinion was by that order withdrawn from the bound volume.

DUFFY v. RIVELAND, 98 F.3d 447 (9th Cir. 1996) Deaf inmate who denied interpreter at prison disciplinary and classification proceedings sued under ADA with other claims. HELD: summary judgment for prison officials REVERSED because fact issues on interpreter qualifications and inmate ability to communicate with interpreter. Court implies that ADA claim can proceed in prison context. Court HELD: Prison disciplinary and classification hearings were "programs" within meaning of ADA.

NIECE v. FITZNER, 922 F.Supp. 1208 (E.D. Mich. 1996) Prisoner and prisoner's deaf fiance brought civil rights suit under Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Rehabilitation Act, and state law. HELD: prison's provision of telephone access to prisoners was "service" within meaning of ADA; compensatory damages were available under ADA.

NIECE v. FITZNER, 941 F.Supp. 1497 (E.D. Mich. 1996) After 922 F.Supp. 1208, above, defendants again moved to dismiss federal
claims.Motion Denied. Court accepted Magistrate Judge's report and HELD that: (1) Congress in enacting ADA and Rehabilitation Act abrogated sovereign immunity of states under Eleventh Amendment, and (2) both ADA and Rehabilitation Act apply to state prisons.

BULLOCK v GOMEZ, 929 F.Supp. 1299 (C.D. Cal. 1996) HIV-positive inmate and his wife sued correctional officials, asserting that refusal to allow overnight visits violated Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act. On Summary Judgment, HELD: ADA and Rehabilitation Act applied to state correctional facilities; here, fact questions re undue burden and other issues precluded summary judgment.

ARMSTRONG v. WILSON, 942 F.Supp. 1252 (N.D. Cal. 1996) Disabled state prison inmates filed class action against prison officials. HELD ADA and Rehabilitation Act applies to state prisons. Summary judgment denied.

CLARKSON v. COUGHLIN, 898 F.Supp. 1019 (S.D. N.Y. 1995) Deaf and hearing-impaired inmates sued state prison officials, alleging
denial of accommodation of hearing impairments as violation of ADA and other rights. HELD: ADA violated by a) denial of information regarding the Act and location of accessible services, b) prison failure to provide disabled inmates with opportunity to request auxiliary aids and services of their choice, c) failure to resond to inmate requests for accommodations, d) failure of prison to do self-evaluation re inmate housing under ADA, e) failure to establish effective grievance procedure for deaf and hearing impaired inmates regarding accommodations, f) failure to
provide interpreters for reception/classification, g) failure to provide access to telephone devices, close caption for TV, fire alarms, h) exclusion from programs.

CLARK v. STATE, __ F.Supp. __, 1996 WL 628221 (N.D.Cal., Oct. 1, 1996) On motion to dismiss class action claims by two prisoners
with developmental disabilities (retardation) that they cannot obtain necessary and adequate accommodations, protection, and services because of their disabilities. HELD: ADA applies to state prisons.

QUOTE "For instance, Clark was denied medication because of his "stupidity" and, although recommended for placement in Category K, a designation for prisoners with mental retardation, he was denied access to the program. Woods was denied access to work and education programs and was rejected from a reading program because of his "stupidity." Furthermore, because they are less able to comply with prison rules and procedures, they are more likely to be forced into isolation or segregation and to be deprived of good time credits and other services, benefits, and privileges available to non-disabled prisoners. Plaintiffs also claim that they have been subjected to a variety of administrative proceedings, including disciplinary actions, without adequate assistance to help them understand the proceedings and the rights implicated by
them. Clark and Woods are also more likely to be physically and mentally abused by the general prison population because of their disabilities. END QUOTE

NOLAND v. WHEATLEY, 835 F.Supp. 476 (N.D. Ind. 1993). Semiquadriplegic inmate sued under ADA and state law. HELD: ADA does apply in prison context, and no qualified immunity for defendants to ADA claims.

 

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