Two former Clark County Jail inmates have filed a lawsuit against Clark County for failure to accommodate a disability. Melody Alvarez and Kalpana Crabtree, both deaf, allege they did not receive proper accommodations while detained at the county jail in August 2016 and December 2014, respectively.
According to the lawsuit, the jail failed to offer American Sign Language interpreters while being booked, while in the general jail population or while attending activities such as Narcotics Anonymous. The suit also states the two women were not provided an explanation of jail procedures and other announcements in a way that could be understood by deaf inmates, nor were they allowed telephone access, including use of a teletype machine, or TTY.
Alvarez alleges that while incarcerated overnight in 2016 she was denied an ASL interpreter and not allowed to use the TTY at booking. She also claims she was unable to contact her 16-year-old daughter to confirm her 11-year-old son was being cared for. Alvarez states in the suit that staff never gave her a charger or replacement batteries for her cochlear implant processor, effectively leaving her without means of communication. She further alleges she removed her processor overnight to save remaining power but was too afraid to sleep without the ability to hear.
The suit states that Alvarez suffered emotional damages as a result. She seeks $500,000 in damages as well as $250,000 for additional damages as a result of continued deprivation of her constitutional rights by failing to accommodate her disability.
While incarcerated Crabtree also alleges she suffered a lack of accommodation for her disability. Crabtree was incarcerated for three months beginning Dec. 8, 2014. Initially on arrest, Crabtree alleges she was handcuffed with her hands behind her back preventing her from communicating. She also alleges she was denied an ASL interpreter or the use of TTY. When Crabtree was allowed the use of TTY, she claims it was inoperable.
While in jail, Crabtree further alleges she was not accommodated during Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous meetings which prevented her from continuing with her recovery. A lack of ASL interpreters during medical visits also prevented confirmation of correct medications for Crabtree’s diabetes, she alleges.
Crabtree states in the suit that because she was not accommodated while in jail and could not communicate with others she “was in effect placed in a form of involuntary and unwarranted solitary confinement.” Crabtree seeks $500,000 for damages as a result of deprivation of her rights, as well as $250,000 for constitutional deprivation.
A similar suit was filed by former inmate Eric Jacob Studer, also deaf, in December 2016. Studer’s suit was dismissed with prejudice in April.
According to records on the Washington Courts website and Columbian archives, Studer died earlier this year.
Darrell Cochran, Tacoma-based attorney for Alvarez and Crabtree, did not return requests for comment by press time. Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik also did not return requests for comment by press time.