Justice Department Secures Agreement with Arizona Prison System Resolving Discrimination Against Incarcerated People with Vision Disabilities

The Justice Department announced today that the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry (ADCRR) has agreed to adopt systemwide reforms to correct and prevent discrimination against incarcerated people with vision disabilities.

 
The agreement resolves the Justice Department’s findings that ADCRR violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by discriminating against incarcerated individuals with vision disabilities, including those who are blind or have low vision.

The department found that ADCRR failed to reasonably modify its policies or provide auxiliary aids and services, such as Braille materials and displays, audio recordings and screen reader software, to ensure that people with vision disabilities could communicate effectively while incarcerated.

ADCRR failed to provide accessible processes to request accommodations or file disability-related complaints.

ADCRR also over-relied on other incarcerated people to help individuals with vision disabilities without properly training or supervising those providing help.

“People with vision disabilities held in jails and prisons should not be subjected to a higher risk of harm or exposed to greater restrictions than their sighted peers,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

“They should not be denied trained aides, or accessible technology and materials that allow them to participate in work, education and recreation programs.

This agreement embodies the Justice Department’s commitment to ensuring that prisons and jails throughout the country, respect and protect the rights of all people detained inside these facilities, including those with vision disabilities.


“This agreement is a critical step towards giving Arizonans with vision disabilities an equal chance to benefit from prison programs and to successfully reenter society,” said U.

S.

Attorney Gary Restaino for the District of Arizona.

“We appreciate Director Thornell’s leadership and ADCRR’s willingness to proactively work with the Justice Department to address our concerns.

We look forward to continuing to collaborate to make the Arizona prison system more just, more equal and more genuinely rehabilitative for Arizonans with disabilities.

”  
Under the three-year agreement, ADCRR will retain an expert third-party consultant to help revise its policies and practices, train its personnel and provide necessary modifications, aids and services and assistive technology to people with vision disabilities in ADCRR custody.

ADCRR will regularly report to the department and adopt robust screening and documentation procedures to ensure people with vision disabilities are provided with any aids and services they need throughout their incarceration.

ADCRR will also designate a systemwide ADA Administrator and facility ADA coordinators to ensure consistent implementation of the agreement across all state facilities.

The Civil Rights Division’s Disability Rights Section handled this matter in collaboration with the U.

S.

Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona.

The Justice Department plays a central role in advancing the ADA’s goals of equal opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities, including people who are incarcerated.

For more information on the Civil Rights Division, please visit www.

justice.

gov/crt.

For more information on the ADA, please call the department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or visit www.

ada.

gov.

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