The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia, together with the National Association of the Deaf and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP, filed a motion in federal court to pursue a class action lawsuit on behalf of deaf and hard of hearing people imprisoned in and released from the Georgia Department of Corrections. The proposed complaint highlights how prison, probation, and parole systems fail deaf prisoners – leading deaf people to go to prison more often, stay longer, and return more quickly.
Prison administrators do not provide sign language interpretation to convey prison rules, to take classes required for release, or to participate in religious, medical or vocational meetings. In addition, the prison system does not provide visual or tactile alerts for daily or emergency events. The prison system then punishes deaf people for violating rules, not responding to verbal commands and not taking required courses – all of which were inaccessible to them.
After serving their sentence, previously incarcerated deaf people do not have access to information about the conditions of their release, probation guidelines or instructions from their probation officers. Consequently, deaf people are at greater risk of recidivism simply because the system is designed to prevent them from successfully reintegrating into society. This perpetuates a cycle of incarceration targeting people with disabilities.
The complaint alleges the GDOC along with the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles and the Georgia Department of Community Supervision are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the United States Constitution.