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Washington State Makes Work Release Available to Disabled Prisoners; Monetary Payments to Class Members

The Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) agreed to a settlement in a class action lawsuit alleging violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that results in not only a policy change but monetary payments to class members.

Represented by the Seattle law firm of Budge and Heipt, WDOC prisoner Rickey Peralez filed a complaint that resulted in certification of a class defined as, “All otherwise eligible ADA disabled inmates of the [WDOC] who, from October 20, 2003 through January, 2008 have been partially or wholly denied participation in the [W]DOC Work Release Program by reason of a disability.”

In granting the class members’ partial motion for summary judgment, the district court held that to the extent WDOC’s “practice of scoring inmate offenders according to a numerical profiling system known as PULHEDXT – and then uses that score as a motivating factor to exclude otherwise eligible ADA disabled offenders from [W]DOC’s Work Release Program--” violates the ADA.

After that ruling, the WDOC made “significant effort to voluntarily alter and revise policies and procedures and has educated its personnel and voluntarily taken other steps designed to minimize the future potential for discriminating against disabled individuals in connection with [W]DOC’s work release program.”

In addition to rescreening the 166 class members for work release programming, WDOC agreed to provide a monetary settlement to the class. The class representative, Rickey Peralez, received $30,000 as an incentive award. The other class members each received $1,800, for a total damages payout of $298,000.

The Court awarded also class counsel a total of $332,600.75 in attorney fees and costs. The judgment was entered on May 21, 2008. See: Peralez v. Washington Department of Corrections, USDC, W.D. Washington, Case No. C06-5625. Documents related to the case are available in PLN’s briefbank.

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Related legal case

Peralez v. Washington Department of Corrections

Please see the brief bank for documents related to this case.