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SLO Co. Jail agrees to pay former inmate $175k following ADA compliance issues

 Jail
Posted at 4:08 PM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 22:20:00-04

A settlement between San Luis Obispo County and the Department of Justice (DOJ) involving ADA improvements at the county jail has been reached and it includes a $175,000 payment to a former inmate for pain and suffering.

The DOJ says the settlement ensures “inmates with mobility disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in San Luis Obispo Jail’s (SLO Jail) programs, services and activities.”

An investigation was prompted by a former inmate who used a prosthetic leg and complained that the jail “failed to provide him with an accessible cell or shower, causing him to fall repeatedly and, in one instance, to break his leg,” according to the DOJ. The agency adds that due to his disability, the inmate also alleged he was denied equal access to certain programs and recreation, “leading him to experience unnecessary isolation.”

“Based on its investigation, the United States determined that SLO Jail facilities were inaccessible to inmates with mobility disabilities and denied them equal access to the jail’s programs, services and activities,” according to a DOJ press release.

The sheriff’s office says it, along with the county, “fully cooperated with the DOJ to ensure all inmates have equal access to accommodations, activities and programs,” adding that many of the improvements mentioned in the agreement, finalized Wednesday, have already been made.

"The Sheriff's Office worked cooperatively with the Department of Justice to determine improvements needed to make sure our Jail facility is accessible to all people," said Sheriff Ian Parkinson in a press release. "We are pleased with our results so far with our goal to be in full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act."

“People with mobility disabilities are entitled to have access to cells and showers they can safely use while incarcerated,” said Acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison in a DOJ press release. “San Luis Obispo County has taken important steps to ensure that the facilities at its jail are in compliance with the ADA.”

The ADA states that jails or prisons operated by governmental agencies must make the necessary changes “to ensure that inmates with mobility disabilities do not serve time in a manner that is more difficult, or less safe, than those without disabilities.”

The agreement means the San Luis Obispo County Jail will make changes to its facilities to make them accessible to all inmates, even those with disabilities, train relevant staff, designate an ADA coordinator, implement an ADA complaint procedure and pay $175,000 to the former inmate, according to a press release.