Colorado’s prison system has missed two court-ordered deadlines to improve facilities and services for disabled inmates, some of whom have gone without glasses, wheelchairs. or hearing aids for months or even years, reports the Rocky Mountain News. Claims stem from a federal lawsuit filed in 1992 by six disabled inmates who said Colorado prisons didn’t comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. In 2003, the state agreed in a multimillion-dollar settlement to make changes by 2005. The changes included making prisons handicapped-accessible, ending lower pay for “handicapped” inmate jobs. and ensuring that disabled inmates had access to sign language interpreters and Braille or large-print documents. The state didn’t comply by 2005, so the deadline was extended to July 2007.
In 2003, the state paid about $1 million to attorneys for the inmates, and awarded $48,500 to 21 prisoners. Officials said it could cost about $3 million to make physical changes, from installing accessible drinking fountains and toilets to relocating recreational activities to accessible areas. About 1,400 prisoner claims have been made to collect damages for past violations. Many have been dismissed as frivolous, while the state has paid about $30,000 for others.