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Feds Probe Denver for Violating Deaf Prisoner Rights

By Susan Greene
summarized by Alyssa Smith, staff writer

The Federal Justice Department is examining if Denver is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide sign-language interpreters for deaf prisoners. If found to be in violation of the Act, funding for Denver’s police and sheriff’s departments would be majorly impacted. The city is being investigated because of a lawsuit filed by Major Jon Michael Scott who is profoundly deaf. Scott was not provided a way to communicate with fellow jailers, and many of his classification and medical interviews were not interpreted for him. Carrie Ann Lucas, one of Scott’s lawyers, describes the situation as “extraordinarily frustrating.” A city interpreter and the mayor both refused to comment.

This is not the first lawsuit filed against the city. Three other deaf prisoners, Shawn Vigil, Sarah Burke, and Roger Krebs, filed a lawsuit against the city of Denver; the suit alleged that the city did not have proper accommodations for the hearing impaired, train its staff to meet the needs of deaf prisoners, or provide a sign language interpreter. In September, Denver agreed to pay $695,000 to Vigil’s mother, Burke, and Krebs. While Denver claims to be “one of America’s most accessible cities,” Scott’s lawyer questions this.

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