In February 2013 we filed suit on behalf of William Pierce, who is profoundly deaf but received virtually no accommodation for his disability while he was an inmate at the D.C. Correctional Treatment Facility, which is an annex of the D.C. Jail operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) under a contract with the District of Columbia. Pierce’s main goal, and ours, was to require D.C. and CCA to provide proper accommodation for deaf inmates, such as qualified ASL interpreters for intake, classes, and medical visits, video interpretation services when live interpreters are not available, adequate access to videophones, and visible alarms for emergencies.
In September 2015, the district court ruled that the District has an affirmative duty to assess the accommodation needs of inmates with disabilities, and that it violated the law when it “did nothing to evaluate Pierce’s need for accommodation, despite [its] knowledge that he was disabled.” Officials “figuratively shrugged and effectively sat on their hands with respect to this plainly hearing-disabled person in their custody,” the court found, thus acting with “deliberate indifference” to Mr. Pierce’s rights, entitling him to compensatory damages in an amount to be determined by a jury.
In May 2016, the jury awarded Mr. Pierce $70,000 in damages. The District did not appeal.