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NY DOC Agrees to Comply with A.D.A.

The New York City Department of Corrections (NYDOC) on Rikers Island has entered into a voluntary compliance agreement that requires it to comply with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). A NYDOC prisoner filed a complaint with the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, causing that office to investigate whether the NYDOC was violating the ADA.

The prisoner's complaint alleged, among other things, that NYDOC had not designated a responsible employee to coordinate its efforts to comply with its obligations under the ADA with respect to prisoners, and refused to provide the complainant with the name, address and telephone number of that employee.

Under the ADA, no qualified individual with a disability: shall be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, program or activities of a public entity." NYDOC is a public entity under 42 U.S.C. § 12132, and the implementing regulations, 28 C.F.R. § 35.104.
A public entity with fifty or more employees is obligated under the ADA to designate at least one employee to coordinate its efforts to comply with and carry out its responsibilities under (the ADA), including investigation of any complaint communicated to alleging its non-compliance with (the ADA) or alleging any actions that would be prohibited by the ADA." Additionally, the ADA requires NYDOC to make available to all interested individuals the name, office address and telephone number of the employee or employees designated," to review the public entities ADA compliance.

Under the agreement, NYDOC is required to create a full-time position for a Disability Rights Coordinator for Inmates." The coordinator is responsible for ensuring there are procedures for the prompt and equitable resolution of ADA complaints or for reasonable accommodations by disabled prisoners. Staff that interact with disabled prisoners must also receive adequate and appropriate information and training on ADA issues.

NYDOC must modify its existing directives, rules, policies, and procedures concerning the screening and classification of prisoners upon their entry to NYDOC. The coordinator must be notified within 24 hours, or the next day after a holiday or weekend of the name of a prisoner who claims a disability, the nature of the disability, and any request for accommodation made by the prisoner upon receipt.

In addition to the coordinator, NYDOC must permanently assign one civilian administrative employee to each facility within NYDOC. Upon request, prisoners will receive the name, office address and telephone number of the coordinator and each facilities contact. NYDOC is also required to implement a grievance process to handle ADA complaints.

On an annual basis, NYDOC must provide the United States Attorney a report of actions taken by the coordinator during the preceding year and any plans for action concerning ADA compliance in the coming year. If violations of the ADA cannot be resolved within 90 days, the United States can commence a civil action in federal district court.

The agreement went into effect on August 5, 2004, and is binding for three years. It is certain the agreement will affect many of the 120,000 to 130,000 prisoners NYDOC admits into custody on a daily basis.

The comprehensive measures required by today's settlement agreement are designed to ensure that disabled inmates in New York City's Jails are afforded the civil rights guaranteed them by federal law," said David N. Kelley, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. The complete agreement is posted on PLN's website.

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