Lawsuit claims jail violates rights of disabled inmates

Wed, May 25, 2016 6:25 PM

A federal class-action lawsuit claiming disabled inmates at the Shasta County Jail are routinely discriminated against by their jailers was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.

The 36-page lawsuit alleges the jail routinely ignores and fails to comply with the American with Disabilities Act and restricts the ability of disabled inmates to sleep, use the restroom, shower, worship, exercise and move around the facility.

Furthermore, it claims that disabled inmates who complain or file grievances about their treatment and the facilities are retaliated against by jail staff.

For example, it said, one was reportedly denied his cancer medication while others were served tainted and inedible food.

Other punishments for speaking out include body cavity searches, being locked in solitary confinement and having their canes taken away or destroyed, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit names the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Tom Bosenko, Shasta County and the California Forensic Medical Group, Inc., as defendants.

Bosenko could not be reached after hours today for comment.

According to the lawsuit, disabled inmates are provided with inadequate accommodations, such as showers without grab bars and benches, segregated from the general population, placed in 23-hour lock down, excluded from jail programs and services and subjected to “multiple and pervasive conditions.”

“These, and many other conditions, result in a system that violates the fundamental rights of people with disabilities within the jail,” the lawsuit states. “Starting with the time they are processed, persons with mobility disabilities face myriad discriminatory conditions and physical barriers.”

And, it alleges, the “result is a system that imposes some of the worst conditions on people with mobility disabilities while at the same time excluding them from the most beneficial programs within the jail,” including religious services. “These conditions have dire mental and physical consequences are in flagrant violation of the law,” it says.

The lawsuit was initially filed in 2013 by Everett Jewett, a former jail inmate who is now serving a nine-year prison sentence at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville in connection with a home invasion robbery.

But it has since been amended to include three other plaintiffs, including a Shingletown man accused of murdering his best friend.

The San Francisco-based and non-profit Legal Services for Prisoners With Children is also named as a plaintiff.

“As an organization of currently and formerly incarcerated people, we are very concerned about the human rights violations against all people in jails and prisons,” its executive director Dorsey Nunn said in a news release. “People do not shed their humanity at booking. We hope this litigation will result in Shasta County properly caring for the people in their custody.”

Disability Right Legal Center (DRLC) Attorney Kara Janssen said in that same news release that “prisoners with disabilities at the Shasta County Jail are held in truly abhorrent conditions that not only worsen their existing disabilities but also have devastating psychological effects.”

“Everyone deserves dignity,” Taylor Gooch, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said in the news release. “We’re seeking to protect that dignity and restore the legally protected rights of persons incarcerated by Shasta County.”