May 16, 2005

Americans With Disabilities Act & Disabled Inmates

Americans With Disabilities Act, signed into law on July 26 1990, is wide-ranging legislation intended to make American society more accessible to people with disabilities.
The ADA recognizes and protects the civil rights of people with disabilities and is modeled after earlier landmark laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race and gender. The ADA covers a wide range of disability, from physical conditions affecting mobility, stamina, sight, hearing, and speech to conditions such as emotional illness and learning disorders. The ADA addresses access to the workplace (title I), State and local government services (title II), and places of public accommodation and commercial facilities (title III). It also requires phone companies to provide telecommunications relay services for people who have hearing or speech impairments (title IV) and miscellaneous instructions to Federal agencies that enforce the law (title V).
I am a paraplegic since 1999, the Americans With Disabilities Act has made daily life more accessible. I am able to go to school, stores, movies, restaurants and so on without worrying if I am able to access the places I have to go. Some locations are better than others with their accessibility, I only had a few problems with access to places.

One place I hope I never had to worry about access is to a jail.

Court to Review Rights of Disabled Inmates
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court said Monday that it will decide if states and counties can be sued for not accommodating disabled prisoners, setting up another legal showdown over the power of Congress to tell states what to do.

The high court ruled seven years ago that a landmark federal civil rights law protects people being held in state prisons.

Since then, however, lower court judges have disagreed over whether states can be sued for damages by prisoners under the Americans With Disabilities Act, a law meant to ensure equal treatment for the disabled in many areas of life.
The Bush administration filed an appeal on behalf of a paraplegic named Tony Goodman a Georgia prisoner, who claims he has been held for more than 23 hours a day in a cell so narrow he cannot turn his wheelchair.
Goodman, who suffered his injuries in a car accident, is serving time for aggravated assault and a cocaine conviction. He claims that because the prison in Reidsville, Ga., is not equipped for people in wheelchairs, he cannot go to the bathroom or bathe without help, and does not have access to counseling, classes and religious services. He has sometimes been forced to sit in his own waste, according to Goodman's lawsuit.

Paul Clement, the president's lead Supreme Court lawyer, told justices in a filing that ADA's protections address "the inhumane, degrading, and health-endangering conditions of daily living for inmates."
The case has vast implications for states because of the costs of retrofitting old prisons to accommodate people with disabilities.

I know the person in the story committed a crime and should be in prison for the appropriate amount of time, but the jail should be suitable for this basic needs. Being held in a cell so narrow that he can not turn his wheelchair, being forced to sit in his own waste, not able to go to bathroom or bath without help is inhumane and degrading.

Being able to shower, use the bathroom without help, attending counseling and religious services are basic needs for the prisoner. Americans With Disabilities Act should not stop at the door of a prison.


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