Clark County Jail reaches agreement on handling deaf inmates

From the Associated Press

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — The Clark County Jail and the U.S. Department of Justice have reached a settlement to ensure that people who are deaf or hard of hearing have equal access to services.

“When a person with communication disabilities has their liberty restrained by incarceration, the ability to effectively communicate is of critical importance,” Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman said in a press release. “They must be able to provide and receive information about medical care, legal rights, and their basic human needs.”

The settlement stemmed from a complaint filed by a woman who was deaf and was denied aids or services while held in the jail for two days in 2019, Gorman said. There have been multiple lawsuits against the jail by inmates with hearing impairments since 2014.

An investigation determined that jail staff were not trained on how to assess an inmate’s communication needs despite the fact that the jail deals with many people with hearing impairments.

Under the settlement, the jail must provide interpreter services for things like medical appointments, educational classes, classification reviews and religious services. The jail must also modify its restraint and handcuffing policy so inmates can communicate with sign language or writing.

The jail will pay the woman involved $25,000.