FJI & ACLU Secure Near-$100K Settlement for Paralyzed Man Whose Wheelchair Was Withheld by Prison Officials

For years, Richard Jackson has needed a wheelchair for mobility, and used one without incident during his stay in prison.  When he was transferred to Santa Rosa Correctional Institution, however, prison officials took away his wheelchair while in his cell.  He was locked alone in his cell for over a year, only permitted to leave for one hour three times per week.  When in the cell, he was forced to drag himself across the floor to get between the bed, toilet, and sink. He developed sores on his legs and his shoulders dislocated.  When he filed a pro se lawsuit over this humiliating and degrading treatment, he was transferred to another institution, where his food was withheld and he was beaten by corrections officers in retaliation.

Lawyers from FJI and the ACLU of Florida stepped in to represent him, to ensure that incarcerated people with disabilities receive the aids and services they’re entitled to, and that they’re treated with dignity and respect.  The attorneys have filed a new Complaint, bringing claims under the Eighth Amendment, Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act, and First Amendment.  The ACLU’s press release can be found here.  Press coverage of this case can be found here.

4/15/15 Update: The parties have reached a settlement resolving this case.  The FDOC will pay roughly $97,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees, and have promised to allow Mr. Jackson to keep and use his wheelchair in every part of every prison compound.

“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,” stated ACLU of Florida staff attorney Benjamin Stevenson. “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.”

“Hopefully this settlement reminds the Department that this barbaric mistreatment won’t be tolerated,” stated Dante Trevisani, an attorney with the Florida Justice Institute. “All incarcerated people with disabilities are entitled to accommodations so they can effectively access all prison facilities with dignity.”

Press coverage of the settlement can be found here.

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