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, they complain in a class-action lawsuit, says the Raleigh News & Observer. Brought on behalf of six 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. One of those named in the suit is Chad 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. 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.