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Justice Department Drives Prison Reform for Incarcerated Individuals with Vision Disabilities in Arizona

18 Nov 2023, Jail News, by brian

The Justice Department mandates reforms to protect incarcerated individuals with vision disabilities in Arizona prisons.

Justice Department Drives Prison Reform for Incarcerated Individuals with Vision Disabilities in Arizona - Inmate Lookup

The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry (ADCRR) will implement broad reforms to rectify discrimination against incarcerated individuals with vision disabilities, the Justice Department disclosed on Thursday.

The agreement addresses the Justice Department’s discovery that ADCRR violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by discriminating against incarcerated individuals with vision disabilities, such as those who have low vision or blindness.

The department found that ADCRR did not justly change its rules or offer services and aids, like Braille materials and displays, screen reader software, and audio recordings, to make sure that people with vision disabilities could communicate well while they were in prison.

In addition, ADCRR did not make it easy for inmates with disabilities to file disability-related complaints or request accommodations. It was also discovered that ADCRR depended too much on other prisoners to help people with vision problems without properly training or overseeing those who were helping.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division emphasized that individuals with vision disabilities in jails and prisons should not face higher risks or more significant restrictions than their sighted fellow inmates. She highlighted the importance of providing trained aides, accessible technology, and materials to enable participation in various programs.

Clarke stated that the agreement reflects the Justice Department’s commitment to upholding the rights of all detained individuals, including those with vision disabilities nationwide.

U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino for the District of Arizona hailed the agreement as a crucial step towards equal opportunities for Arizonans with vision disabilities in prison programs and reentry into society.

Acknowledging the leadership of Director Ryan Thornell and ADCRR’s proactive collaboration to address concerns, he expressed anticipation for ongoing cooperation to enhance the Arizona prison system’s fairness, equality, and rehabilitation for individuals with disabilities.

As part of the three-year agreement, ADCRR will retain an expert third-party consultant to help update its procedures and policies, train staff, and offer assistive technology, aids, and services, as well as any necessary improvements, to those with vision impairments under its care.

ADCRR will implement thorough screening and documentation procedures, provide reports to the department on a regular basis, and guarantee that individuals with vision impairments receive all necessary aids and services while they are incarcerated.

Additionally, in order to guarantee the uniform application of the agreement at all state facilities, ADCRR will appoint facility ADA coordinators and ADA administrators systemwide.

The Justice Department is critical to achieving the ADA’s goals of equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities, including those in prison.