Case: DOJ ADA Investigation of Vermont Department of Corrections

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Case Summary

The Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (“DOJ”) initiated an investigation into the Vermont Department of Corrections (“VDOC”) following complaints that VDOC failed to provide accessible facilities for incarcerated individuals with mobility disabilities and did not ensure effective communication for individuals with hearing disabilities, contrary to the requirements of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Individuals with mobilit…

The Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (“DOJ”) initiated an investigation into the Vermont Department of Corrections (“VDOC”) following complaints that VDOC failed to provide accessible facilities for incarcerated individuals with mobility disabilities and did not ensure effective communication for individuals with hearing disabilities, contrary to the requirements of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Individuals with mobility disabilities alleged that the inaccessibility of VDOC prevented them from participating in activities of daily living, educational programs, and religious services. Individuals with hearing disabilities claimed that VDOC violated policy by providing only one hearing aid, when two are prescribed, and by failing to repair and return hearing aids in a timely fashion, preventing them from participating fully in counseling, educational, recreational, religious, and social programs. DOJ’s investigation included architectural surveys, document review, and interviews with administrators, personnel, and individuals incarcerated at VDOC facilities. 

DOJ concluded that VDOC failed to provide architectural and communication accessibility, violating the ADA. On October 28, 2021, DOJ announced that it had negotiated a settlement agreement with VDOC instead of pursuing litigation. Effective until October 28, 2024, the settlement provided for both monetary and injunctive relief, including:

  • Making structural changes to VDOC facilities according to ADA Standards for Accessible Design;
  • Implementing a comprehensive process, starting at intake, to identify and accommodate individuals with disabilities;
  • Developing individualized communication assessments and plans setting out the auxiliary aids and services necessary to ensure effective communication for individuals with hearing disabilities:
  • Removing physical barriers for individuals with mobility disabilities to ensure access to prison cells and work assignments;
  • Providing annual training for the duration of the agreement on Title II of the ADA to correctional staff;
  • Engaging in compliance reporting and monitoring with DOJ; and
  • Paying $80,000 to at least five current and former individuals who were harmed.

Summary Authors

Hannah Juge (6/11/2022)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Settlement Agreement between the United States of America and Vermont Department of Corrections under the Americans with Disabilities Act, DJ # 204-78-44

Department of Justice Investigation of the Vermont Department of Corrections

Oct. 28, 2021

Oct. 28, 2021

Settlement Agreement

Resources

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Vermont

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Disability Rights

Special Collection(s):

Deaf or Blind in Jail/Prison

Key Dates

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

U.S. Department of Justice, Disability Rights Section

Plaintiff Type(s):

U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Defendant Type(s):

Corrections

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.

Special Case Type(s):

Out-of-court

Availably Documents:

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Private Settlement Agreement

Amount Defendant Pays: $400,000.00

Order Duration: 2021 - 2024

Content of Injunction:

Develop anti-discrimination policy

Monitoring

Provide antidiscrimination training

Reasonable Accommodation

Recordkeeping

Reporting

Training

Issues

General:

Barrier Removal

Effective Communication (ADA)

Individualized planning

Reasonable Accommodations

Reasonable Modifications

Record-keeping

Recreation / Exercise

Discrimination-basis:

Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)

Disability:

Hearing impairment

Mobility impairment

Type of Facility:

Government-run