Disabled Santa Rosa inmate to get $97K in settlement

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit brought by a partially paralyzed inmate in a Santa Rosa County prison who had been denied the use of a wheelchair while in his cell and had been retaliated against by prison staff for pursuing legal action against the prison. The settlement requires the Florida Department of Corrections to allow the man, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Florida Justice Institute, to use his wheelchair in the prison. The settlement also requires the FDOC to pay roughly $97,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees.

“We are very pleased that we were able to reach a settlement that reflects the fact that people in our prisons should not be subject to inhuman and degrading conditions or be denied medically-necessary accommodations,” ACLU of Florida staff attorney Benjamin Stevenson said in a news release. “The abuse and violence that goes on in Florida prisons violates the principles that our Constitution was created to protect. With the eyes of the state on our prisons as more horror stories seem to come out of our prisons every week, we hope this settlement will bring us one step closer to ending the toxic culture of violence that has plagued the Florida Department of Corrections.”

Richard Jackson, who suffers from partial paralysis of his lower limbs, cannot walk and must use a wheelchair for mobility. However, the prison officials at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution refused to allow Jackson the use of a wheelchair inside his cell, requiring him to drag himself using his hands and arms in order to navigate between his bed and the toilet and to enter and exit the cell.

The mistreatment continued for 14 months, according to the release.

In April 2014, the ACLU and FJI filed an amended complaint in Jackson’s lawsuit reflecting their role as attorneys for Jackson and adding the allegations of retaliation, arguing that Jackson’s treatment violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as Jackson’s constitutionally-protected right to petition the government and protection against being subject to cruel and unusual punishment.

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