http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2012/11/23/lawsuit-santa-rita-jail-discriminates-against-people-with-disabilities


Pleasanton Weekly

News - November 23, 2012

Lawsuit: Santa Rita Jail discriminates against people with disabilities

Jail lacks access to toilets, showers, educational and rehabilitation programs, suit says

Advocates for people with disabilities filed a lawsuit last Thursday accusing Alameda County of engaging in systematic discrimination against inmates with disabilities who are incarcerated at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

The lawsuit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court and is brought by Legal Services for Prisoners with Children on behalf of themselves and their members and two taxpayers. It alleges that "the jail's inhumane conditions and discriminatory treatment of people with disabilities denies these people the basic rights to appropriate facilities for simple human necessities."

The suit says such necessities include toilets and showers and access to educational and rehabilitation programs that can reduce the jail sentences of inmates with disabilities.

Disability Rights Advocates attorney Stuart Seaborn, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, said the suit seeks no monetary damages but aims to compel Alameda County to stop using taxpayer funds to further the allegedly illegal and discriminatory conditions at Santa Rita Jail.

Seaborn said the suit alleges that the county has a systemic practice of housing men and women with disabilities at Santa Rita Jail in cells and housing units that lack wheelchair accessible toilets, showers and visiting areas.

He said the suit also claims that the jail segregates certain people with disabilities from the general population by housing them in the Outpatient Housing Unit, also known as the infirmary, which operates similar to solitary confinement.

Seaborn said conditions at that unit compromise the health and welfare of men and women with disabilities and result in the denial of access to critical rehabilitative programs, religious services and outdoor exercise.

He said that without wheelchair-accessible toilets that have grab bars, people with mobility disabilities cannot transfer themselves from a wheelchair.

Alameda County Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson said he couldn't comment on the suit at this time because the Sheriff's Office hadn't seen it yet.

--Bay City News Service

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