Wednesday, September 22, 2010

NC News: N&O Article on Disabled Inmates

Disabled inmates deserve chance to earn time off, lawsuit says

RALEIGH Disabled inmates in North Carolina's prisons serve longer sentences than other inmates because they are unable to participate in programs used to earn time off for positive behavior, according to a class action lawsuit filed in federal court.

Brought on behalf of six d inmates with disabilities, the lawsuit contends that the system for rewarding "sentence reduction credits" violates the Americans With Disabilities Act and other federal laws. Inmates in North Carolina can shave up to six days a month off their sentences by performing work assignments and earning education credits.

"We don't think anybody in North Carolina should be serving additional time in prison simply because they're living with a disability," said Mary Pollard, the director of N.C. Prisoner Legal Services, which filed the suit.

Keith Acree, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Correction, said Tuesday that he could not comment on a matter that is under litigation.

Among those named in the lawsuit is inmate Chad W. Bumgarner, who is serving an 83- month sentence for burglary. Bumgarner, 40, suffers from a neurodegenerative disorder that requires him to use leg braces to stand or walk. He also has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, according to the lawsuit.

Read more here

After he entered the prison system in 2008, Bumgarner tried to get a job but was told there were no assignments suitable for him because of his physical disability. He tried to take classes to earn sentence reduction credits but could do so only with "extreme difficulty," the suit said.

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