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Denial of Sex Offender Treatment Nets Disabled Utah Prisoner $60,000

The Utah Department of Corrections (DOC) agreed to pay a former prisoner $60,000 for effectively adding 13 years to his sentence by denying him sex offender treatment due to his disabilities.

In 1996, Richard Ramirez was convicted of sexually molesting a 15-year-old boy and sentenced to five years to life in prison. Eligible for parole after serving five years, he was required to complete sex offender treatment before he could be paroled.

Four years into his sentence, mental health professionals recommended that Ramirez, who has an IQ of 68 and cannot read or write, receive individualized therapy because he could not make it through treatment on his own, according to his attorney, Brent Manning.

Ramirez attempted to complete sex offender treatment but was unable to finish the required workbook assignments. Prison officials discharged him from the program because he could not understand or finish the material within the required time frame “due to his diminished intellectual functioning.” As a result, he was denied a parole hearing.

Ramirez “should have been able to apply for parole after five years,” said Manning. However, because he was unable to complete sex offender treatment as a result of his disabilities, he “was stuck in the prison for years longer than he should have been.”

Ramirez was eventually paroled in 2014 after serving 18 years. He then completed an individualized sex offender treatment program at a community corrections center.

Ramirez filed suit in federal court, alleging that prison officials had discharged him from the sex offender treatment program due to his disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection. The district court appointed Manning to represent Ramirez.

In March 2016, prison officials agreed to settle the case for $60,000; they also agreed to consider making recommended policy changes to better accommodate the needs of disabled prisoners.

“The department regularly reviews its policies and procedures to ensure ongoing compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act,” according to a DOC statement. “The department is committed to continuing to provide these treatment services and to working with community partners such as the Disability Law Center to ensure it is meeting the needs of inmates with disabilities.”

The DOC added, “While the ability to offer sex offender treatment is limited by funding, the department expects these ongoing efforts will allow it to continue to improve the services it provides inmates.” Nevertheless, prison officials noted that the settlement in Ramirez’s case “does not require any policy changes.” See: Ramirez v. Robinson, U.S.D.C. (D. Utah), Case No. 2:11-cv-01199-CW. 

Additional source: Deseret News

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