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Colorado DOC Settles Suit Over Provision of Education Programs to Learning Disabled Prisoner

Colorado DOC Settles Suit Over Provision of Education Programs to Learning Disabled Prisoner

The Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by a prisoner who was denied the right to participate in educational services due to her learning disability.

Maureen Martin, a Colorado state prisoner at the LaVista Correctional Facility, decided to turn her life around following her incarceration. Realizing that her inability to read and write was a significant impediment to her goals, she signed up for adult basic education classes.

For just over three months Martin made significant advances, receiving certificates and other acknowledgments from her teacher. However, she was terminated from the prison school program on February 28, 2007 due to her purported “inability to progress because of learning deficiencies beyond her control.” Despite Martin’s academic efforts, her teacher said she was “unteachable.”

Martin filed suit in U.S. District Court, alleging violations of her Fourteenth Amendment rights, the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. § 794(a)) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. § 12102). After extensive negotiations, the CDOC agreed to settle on March 31, 2009.

In exchange for Martin dismissing her lawsuit, the CDOC agreed to pay her $18,888.16. Additionally, the CDOC agreed to (1) create standards for evaluating all state prisoners with learning disabilities and mental health issues; (2) conduct a learning disability assessment of Martin and prepare an education plan for her; and (3) provide Martin with “Talking Books,” additional class hours, meaningful individualized tutoring and the opportunity to repeat classes as needed due to her learning disability.

The CDOC further agreed to pay $11,111.84 in attorney’s fees. Martin was represented by Mari Anne Newman with the Denver law firm of Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP. See: Martin v. Ritter, USDC (D.Col.), Case No. 1:07-cv-02689-REB-KLM.

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Related legal case

Martin v. Ritter