(CN) – California officials have a duty to accommodate disabled prisoners and parolees, the 9th Circuit ruled, handing disabled inmates another victory in a legal battle that has spanned more than a decade.
The federal appeals court in Pasadena said California officials are responsible for providing “reasonable accommodations” for disabled inmates in county jails.
The prisoners prevailed time and again in district and appeals court, but state officials continued to argue that they have no responsibility for ensuring that disabled prisoners and parolees receive accommodations.
The state’s primary contention is that the regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act — which state that an entity can’t avoid its obligations by operating through contractual, licensing, or other arrangements with third parties — are “manifestly contrary” to the ADA.
The three-judge panel disagreed, once again ruling that state officials can’t shirk their responsibility to provide inmates with mobility, vision, hearing, developmental, kidney and learning disabilities accommodations.
“Here, plaintiffs do not complain that they have been denied incarceration on account of their disabilities,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote. “Instead, they contend that, on account of their disabilities, they have been denied benefits provided to other incarcerated persons or required by due process.”
The panel ruled that the state’s contracts and arrangements with the counties are not simply to incarcerate parolees and prisoners, but to provide positive opportunities, from educational and treatment programs to opportunities to challenge their incarceration. Prisoners are also entitled to enjoy life fundamentals such as eating, using the toilet, moving and communicating.