by Chuck Sharman
A diminutive detainee who was deaf and communicated by sign language was found unresponsive at Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center early on October 9, 2022. Officials from the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) have since announced that the death of Javarick Gantt, 34, was ruled a homicide.
An unincarcerated friend, Anthony Taylor, described Gantt as standing 5-foot-4 inches and weighing “no more than 120 pounds.” It is not yet known whether he was held in a housing area appropriate for his disability. The state entered into a settlement in 2015 to resolve a lawsuit filed by deaf prisoners accusing DPSCS of failing to provide adequate accommodations for those it holds who are deaf or suffer hearing loss. [See: PLN, Apr.2016, p.55.]
Offering “deepest condolences” to Gantt’s family, Maryland Association of the Deaf President Kirsten Poston also demanded “an independent investigation into the matter as well as accountability and assurance that all individuals who require accessibility are granted them and are protected.”
One of Gantt’s fellow detainees said, “They don’t care about you, deaf or not, so it’s 10 times worse being deaf.”
“Whether the deceased’s disability played any role in this case is part of both the criminal and administrative investigations being conducted now by DPSCS Intelligence and Investigative Division detectives,” said a spokesperson for the agency.
Gantt was reportedly charged with groping in a 2019 incident and minor assault in another incident the same year. But it was unclear why he was incarcerated at the time of his death, though court records mention a failure to appear for a meeting with a probation officer. At booking on July 1, 2022, Gantt provided an out-of-state address, likely influencing the decision to jail him.
The DPSCS spokesperson promised that the agency’s “incarceration practices for people with disabilities were developed with ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.] guidance and oversight from a full-time” coordinator. That position was one of the requirements of the 2015 settlement agreement.
Though declining to comment on the case because it is under investigation, Kelby Brick, director of the Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for Gov. Larry Hogan (R), used sign language to “offer my condolences to Javarick Gantt's family and friends.”
Sources: Baltimore Banner, Washington Post, WBFF
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