Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

California Department of Corrections Settles for $96,300 and Agreement to Provide Disabled Access

by Christopher Zoukis

Derrick Saenz-Payne, a physically disabled visitor at the California Corrections Center, accepted a settlement of $96,300 for having to struggle with the facility's numerous accessibility problems. The settlement included an agreement to make the facility meet state and federal standards within 30 days.

     On April 11, 2009, Saenz-Payne went to visit an inmate at the Susanville, California, corrections center. Poor signage led him to High Desert State Prison, located across the street. While on a crosswalk, he was thrown from his wheelchair because of its steep slope. He returned to his vehicle and drove across the street. As there was no accessible parking available, he had to transfer into his wheelchair in the street.

     Upon arriving at the visitor's center, Saenz-Payne had to deal with a number of obstacles, such as narrow doorways, excessive slopes, uneven pavement and steep ramps. Inside the center, staff would not let him use his own wheelchair, and he had to be pushed by an attendant throughout his visit.

     On August 22, 2010, Saenz-Payne returned for another visit to the facility. Although this time he was allowed to remain in his own wheelchair, he had to manage the same accessibility difficulties. He discontinued his visits because of these problems.

     On June 11, 2010, Saenz-Payne filed a complaint in federal court against the California Corrections Center, High Desert State Prison, California Department of Corrections and the State of California. In it, Saenz-Payne claimed that they violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and California state law by failing to provide disabled access to public facilities, services, programs and activities at its prisons. He also sought compensatory, statutory and treble damages, attorney's fees, expenses and costs.

     A settlement agreement among the parties was filed on September 27, 2011. The defendants agreed to make the necessary modifications to bring their facilities into compliance with state and federal requirements for disabled accessibility. They also agreed to compensate Saenz-Payne for his damages and expenses with $96,300.

See: Saenz-Payne v. State of California, et al., United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, Case No. 2:10-cv-01455-MCE-EFB (Sept. 27, 2011)

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Saenz-Payne v. State of California, et al.