Local News

Disabled inmates sue state over work credits

Posted September 17, 2010 2:45 p.m. EDT

— Six inmates have filed suit against the state Department of Correction, alleging that the department violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act by linking credits to reduce prison sentences to work done behind bars.

The inmates want the DOC to adjust its policies so that they and others who suffer physical impairments have a way to gain credits to reduce their sentences.

The six inmates suffer from various conditions, from cancer to arthritis to cerebral palsy, and one has had a leg amputated, according to the lawsuit.

They allege that DOC policies allow disabled inmates to receive credits on their sentences only if they are deemed "medically unfit," but say that prison officials rarely designate anyone as unfit. Also, some prisons are prohibited from classifying someone as medically unfit because they lack a certain level of health care resources for inmate care, according to the lawsuit.

The inmates contend that their physical limitations meet the ADA's definition of a disability, so they shouldn't be prevented from earning sentence-reduction credits because prison officials don't consider them medically unfit.

"Defendants exclude plaintiffs from gain and earned-time programs and the associated benefits of sentence reduction credits by denying plaintiffs access to work and program assignments by reason of their disabilities," the suit states.