Case: DOJ ADA Investigation of Utah Department of Corrections

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Case Summary

The Special Litigation section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (“DOJ”) initiated an investigation into the Utah Department of Corrections (“UDOC”) upon receipt of a complaint. The complaint was filed pursuant to Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), alleging that UDOC failed to ensure effective communication for inmates with hearing disabilities, thereby denying them participation in educational, vocational, religious and other programs on the basis of…

The Special Litigation section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (“DOJ”) initiated an investigation into the Utah Department of Corrections (“UDOC”) upon receipt of a complaint. The complaint was filed pursuant to Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), alleging that UDOC failed to ensure effective communication for inmates with hearing disabilities, thereby denying them participation in educational, vocational, religious and other programs on the basis of their disability. 

The investigation included UDOC onsite document review and interviews in January of 2018. DOJ interviewed individuals with disabilities incarcerated in UDOC facilities as well as UDOC staff and personnel.

On January 22, 2019, the United States and UDOC entered into a settlement agreement. DOJ was authorized to determine compliance, issue findings, and negotiate voluntary compliance agreements under Title II of the ADA. The agreement became immediately effective upon signature and remained in effect for twenty-two months after the effective date (until November 2020). 

The agreement contained twenty-six remedial actions to be undertaken by UDOC. Remedial actions included making “reasonable modifications” so that programs, services, and activities would be more accessible to individuals with disabilities. Measures specifically addressing communication for individuals with hearing disabilities included providing telecommunication services; qualified interpreters (with a provision allowing for the individual to delay the activity until an interpreter is available); reasonable modification of handcuffing policies; and hearing aids (including requiring repairs of devices to be made within 24-48 hours). UDOC agreed to provide training to all personnel who have contact with incarcerated individuals with disabilities. In addition, UDOC accepted designating a statewide ADA Coordinator to coordinate all efforts to comply with the ADA and terms of the agreement.

 

Summary Authors

Hannah Juge (6/5/2022)

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Docket

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

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Utah

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Disability Rights

Special Collection(s):

Deaf or Blind in Jail/Prison

Key Dates

Closing Date: 2020

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

The Special Litigation Section of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division

Plaintiff Type(s):

U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division

Public Interest Lawyer: No

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

Order Duration: 2019 - 2020

Issues

General:

Barrier Removal

Communication skills

Language access/needs

Phone

Restraints : physical

Screen readers and similar accessibility devices

Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)

Discrimination-basis:

Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)

Disability:

Hearing impairment

Type of Facility:

Government-run