ACLU of Georgia

Coen v. GDOC

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia filed a motion in federal court to pursue a class action lawsuit on behalf of people who are deaf or hard of hearing people who are incarcerated and released from the Georgia Department of Corrections.

 

The complaint highlights how prison, probation, and parole systems fail people who are deaf or hard of hearing and thereby leads to those individuals to go to prison more often, stay longer, and return more quickly. 

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia, together with the National Association of the Deaf and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP, filed a motion in federal court to pursue a class action lawsuit on behalf of people who are deaf or hard of hearing and who are imprisoned in and released from the Georgia Department of Corrections. The proposed complaint highlights how prison, probation, and parole systems fail deaf prisoners – leading people who are deaf or hard of hearing to go to prison more often, stay longer, and return more quickly.

Prison administrators do not provide sign language interpretation to convey prison rules, to take classes required for release, or to participate in religious, medical or vocational meetings. In addition, the prison system does not provide visual or tactile alerts for daily or emergency events. The prison system then punishes them for violating rules, not responding to verbal commands and not taking required courses – all of which were inaccessible to them.

After serving their sentence, previously incarcerated people who are deaf or hard of hearing do not have access to information about the conditions of their release, probation guidelines or instructions from their probation officers. Consequently, these individuals are at greater risk of recidivism simply because the system is designed to prevent them from successfully reintegrating into society. This perpetuates a cycle of incarceration targeting people with disabilities.

The complaint alleges the GDOC along with the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles and the Georgia Department of Community Supervision are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the United States Constitution.

 

The District Court broke up this lawsuit into two separate lawsuits: Harris v Georgia Department of Corrections and Cobb v Georgia Department of Community Supervision.

CASE DETAILS

Status
Voluntarily Dismissed

Date filed
June 20, 2018

Plaintiffs
Jerry Coen, Brandon Cobb, John Doe, Tommy Green, Ricardo Harris, Leroy
Henderson, Carlos Herrera, Tony Moore, jr., Christopher Shields, Andrew Smith, Darrell Smith, Jr., Jorae Smith, Jonah Wooden, and
Jeremy Woody

COUNSEL

  • ACLU of Foundation of Georgia, Inc.

  • American Civil Liberties Union Foundation Disability Rights Program

  • Weil, Gotschal & Manges LLP

  • National Association of the Deaf