Class action lawsuit targets DOCCS, Five Points for defaulting inmates with mobility issues

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Five Points Correctional Institution is being sued in a class action lawsuit, according to an announcement from two nonprofits.

Disability advocates and prisoner legal services in New York have filed a lawsuit against the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision on behalf of people with disabilities incarcerated at the New York Correctional Center. Five Points who have been refused accommodation related to mobility.

The lawsuit alleges that DOCCS routinely confiscates personal mobility aids, such as wheelchairs and canes on arrival, even though they were issued by DOCCS at other facilities. The lawsuit also alleges that DOCCS refuses to replace or provide mobility aids when needed, provides broken and unusable shared wheelchairs that are difficult to access, and refuses human assistants to help with cell cleaning and maintenance. other tasks.

Complainants also claim that people who use wheelchairs and cannot push themselves have no reliable means of getting around the facility due to DOCCS ‘reliance on an ad hoc process of calling other people. incarcerated to push them.

The complaint accuses people who use wheelchairs of regularly finding themselves stranded as they attempt to access facility services and programs such as meals, doctor’s visits, phone calls, recreation and the law library . The administration of the pushers program by DOCCS is so inadequate, according to the lawsuit, that people with disabilities who themselves need pushers are sometimes referred to as pushers for others.

The Complainants argue that DOCCS ‘significant failures to provide these necessary mobility aids and services unlawfully discriminate not only against the Complainants, but against a category of people with mobility-related disabilities who have not been able to navigate in completely and securely in the installation and the programs and services. it offers, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

“It’s been a constant struggle with DOCCS to get a wheelchair that doesn’t fall apart and someone to push it,” said plaintiff Robert Cardew. “When I have to push myself, I can’t breathe and my chest hurts. I shouldn’t hurt myself like that just to go back and forth from meals and programs, or spend hours a day waiting for someone to help me. Things have to change not only for me but for all the other guys here who can’t make it.

“I have been waiting for over 11 years for a working wheelchair that I do not tie up with string and torn T-shirts,” said complainant Harrell Bonner. “I can’t go to meals, in the yard or even to the bathroom because I can’t have a stroller. The situation is dehumanizing and stressful. Five Points has to be done right by all of us who use wheelchairs and canes.

According to the complainants and their legal representatives, the issue is systemic.

“The lack of appropriate accommodations for our clients with disabilities has left them vulnerable to abuse, unable to access essential services and, in some cases, with aggravated medical conditions,” said Megan Welch, lawyer, Prisoners Legal Services. New York.

The plaintiffs and class members are seeking a declaration that these practices are illegal and an injunction to demand that DOCCS change its policies and practices so that people with reduced mobility at Five Points have the amenities they need to get around the city. establishment and access to all programs, services and activities that non-disabled people can access. The plaintiffs also seek compensatory damages for the pain and suffering they suffered as a result of this treatment.

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