WATERBURY, Vermont (AP) – The US Department of Justice has reached an agreement with the Vermont Department of Corrections to improve conditions in state prisons for inmates with disabilities, the department said.
As part of the deal, which was made public on Thursday, the prison service will pay $ 80,000 to compensate current and former inmates who have been injured and it requires the department to make a number of structural changes to prisons across the country. ‘State to comply with Americans with disabilities. Act.
The deal resolves an investigation into complaints that Vermont Corrections failed to provide accessible facilities for inmates with reduced mobility and failed to ensure effective communication for inmates with hearing loss.
“People with disabilities in Vermont deserve equal access, and that doesn’t change when they’re incarcerated,” Vermont Acting US Attorney Jonathan A. Ophardt said in a statement. “The Vermont Department of Corrections is now committed to removing barriers to the participation of inmates with disabilities in institutions (Vermont Prisoners), including inmates who have physical and communication disabilities. “
Vermont Corrections Commissioner Jim Baker said in an email the department recognizes the flaws in the system and is always looking for ways to improve.
“The DOC was a willing partner on this, has always been at the table and has already implemented a number of elements described – many of which were in place before the deal was finalized on Thursday,” Baker said. Friday.
Vermont Advocate General Matt Valerio, who oversees the state’s Prisoner Rights Office, said there have been housing issues in prisons for years. He said the US attorney’s office got involved several years ago after learning of a number of separate cases.
“They are struggling with the fact that our prisons are old and our ability to accommodate these things technically is difficult given the infrastructure that really needs to be updated,” said Valerio. “And that’s one of the really important parts of the regulations, is that the department will continue funding to improve infrastructure.”
The Justice Department says the agreement protects the rights of detainees to equal access to education, counseling and recreation programs. It also guarantees inmates access to prison facilities such as visiting areas, libraries, medical facilities, admission processing, accessible cells and routes to and through prison buildings.
It also requires Vermont to provide hearing-impaired inmates with appropriate assistance such as sign language interpreters, hearing aids and video phones.
The agreement requires Vermont Corrections to pay $ 80,000 to current and former inmates who have been injured. Vermont officials did not say how many inmates would receive part of the settlement.
Valerio said he believed around five inmates would share the money.
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