REDDING, Calif. - A lawsuit against the Shasta County Jail has now reached class action status. That means more people could join the lawsuit which alleges civil rights abuses against people with disabilities.
The lawsuit, filed on May 25, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, alleges that the Shasta County Jail routinely ignores and fails to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Rehabilitation Act and other federal and state laws. In the complaint, plaintiffs detail the jail's systemic issues and violations:
"People with mobility disabilities are denied accommodations, provided inadequate accommodations, inappropriately segregated from the general population, placed in 23 hour lock down, excluded from jail programs and services, and subjected to multiple and pervasive physical access barriers throughout the facilities. The result is a system that imposes some of the worst conditions on people with mobility disabilities while at the same time excluding them from the most beneficial programs within the jail. These conditions have dire mental and physical consequences and are in flagrant violation of the law."
The suit alleges violations prevented disabled inmates from showering, sleeping and moving around. One plaintiff is seeking monetary damages to pay for knee surgery as a result of mistreatment.
Shasta County Counsel Jim Ross said the county did not oppose the plaintiffs' efforts asking the judge to grant the class certification. The lawsuit said the class designation identifies a class of people who could be affected by the suit. Inmates with disabilities will be notified to see if they want join the lawsuit.
The attorney for the plaintiffs said the Shasta County Jail houses as many as 38 prisoners with mobility disabilities on a given day, and processes between 516 to 1,200 mobility disabled detainees in a given year.
"No one should have to endure the pervasive and dehumanizing abuse that disabled prisoners in Shasta County are subjected to," said Taylor Gooch of Keker, Van Nest & Peters, co-counsel for the plaintiffs. "This order marks an important step in our fight to restore these individuals' legally protected rights."
At the time the lawsuit was filed, Shasta County officials issued a news release which said they were actively working with disability rights groups to make improvements to the jail.
One part of the lawsuit claimed jail workers would put plaintiffs in solitary confinement or deny them cancer medication because they spoke up about the problems.
In a statement Shasta County officials said: "to the extent the new complaint alleges any retaliatory conduct toward an individual inmate such as the allegations of denial of medication, or the presentation of tainted or inedible food directed at a disabled inmate or at any inmate, the Shasta County Sheriff's Office completely denies those allegations."
A settlement conference is scheduled for next month.