The South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) reached a settlement with the National Justice Department today over complaints that it does not provide adequate services for deaf inmates.
The complaints under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allege that the department failed to provide inmates with sign language interpreters, hearing aids and excluded their participation in vocational and religious programs because they are deaf, according to the justice department.
The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities by state and local governments.
Under the settlement, SCDC must now take the following steps:
- Provide hearing aides to inmates with hearing disabilities
- Provide qualified interpreters in a timely manner
- Provide telecommunication services so that inmates with hearing disabilities can communicate with their families and attorneys the same as other inmates.
- Make modifications to handcuffing policies to ensure that inmates can still communicate effectively, including being handcuffed from the front so they can sign, or having one hand free to write.
- Require training on communicating with hearing-impaired inmates for all employees who have contact with inmates.
The justice department states that SCDC cooperated throughout the investigation on these new measures.
“Access to services and programming is not only a right under the ADA for the inmates who are deaf and hard of hearing, in this instance, these services will enable the inmates to improve their job skills and better ready themselves for a law-abiding life,” said U.S. Attorney Beth Drake. “That’s good corrections policy that benefits the whole state.”
Read the full settlement here.