TDOC Needs to Stop Denying Effective Communication

Today, CREEC and Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) filed a Complaint seeking access to effective communication for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) custody as required by law. Kevin Trivette is deaf and his primary language is American Sign Language (ASL); like many people who are deaf, he understands English only as a second language. While in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) Mr. Trivette was repeatedly denied crucial – and legally mandated – sign language communication for medical appointments, required classes, and religious services. TDOC also denied him a videophone, which he needed to communicate with his loved ones. Unfortunately, Mr. Trivette is not alone. TDOC routinely denies deaf and hard of hearing inmates qualified sign language interpreters and videophones. These unlawful and potentially harmful denials of effective communication to deaf and hard of hearing individuals who are incarcerated is a pattern of behavior at TDOC. Today, Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) and Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) filed a Complaint in the federal district court for the Middle District of Tennessee on behalf of Mr. Trivette and DRT. The suit is based on violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504). The ADA and Section 504 require that state prisons provide inmates in their custody with equal access to programs and services, including providing sign language interpreters and videophones when needed for effective communication, and equal access to phone privileges. “I want people to know deaf people have rights. We need access to communication for things like doctor’s appointments and...

Disability Discrimination Complaint Filed Over COVID-19 Treatment Rationing Plan in Tennessee

CREEC and other disability rights advocacy organizations joined Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) and The Arc Tennessee (The Arc TN) to file a Complaint with Tennessee’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) on Friday, March 27, 2020 about Tennessee’s Guidance for the Ethical Use of Scarce Resources during a Health Emergency. As COVID-19 cases increase, the experience in other countries and predictions of United States health officials is that there will not be enough acute care services or equipment, such as ventilators, to meet the demand of patients with the virus who require intensive treatment. Health care professionals in the U.S. are already developing protocols for responding to COVID-19, including treatment rationing that will determine who will and will not have access to life-saving treatment. The complaint voices grave concern that Tennessee’s guidelines for rationing discriminate against people with disabilities in violation of federal disability rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and place their lives at serious risk. This complaint about Tennessee’s guidelines along with similar complaints about guidelines in other states call upon the OCR to take immediate action to address this discrimination and assist states and health care providers to develop non-discriminatory approaches before there are lethal consequences to application of these illegal policies.   2020-03-27 TN OCR Complaint re Healthcare Rationing Guidelines with...

CREEC and Co-Counsel File Preliminary Injunction in Fraihat v ICE Case

Press Release Civil Rights Organizations Seek Emergency Court Ruling for Immediate COVID-19 Protections for People in Immigration Detention Centers RIVERSIDE, Calif. –– Early this morning, a group of civil rights legal organizations and their pro bono law firm partners filed an emergency application for a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California seeking a court order requiring that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) take immediate steps to protect people in immigration detention facilities from COVID-19, particularly those at heightened risk. The motion immediately follows ICE’s own admission of the first confirmed positive case of COVID-19 of a person in ICE detention. The motion argues that if ICE cannot or will not immediately take steps to ensure that medically vulnerable people are protected from COVID-19 – including providing timely access to qualified and necessary healthcare – then the Court should order ICE to release those individuals in the interest of public health. The preliminary injunction is being requested as part of an existing class action lawsuit, Fraihat v. ICE, on behalf of the nearly 40,000 people held in ICE detention facilities throughout ICE’s detention system. Based on first-hand observations from attorneys serving clients inside detention centers and direct reports from people who are detained, the current conditions are medically dangerous and fail to meet standard public health recommendations for addressing the pandemic. According to the court filing, ICE has not provided even the most basic public health protections inside detention centers. Its failure to take preventative measures – like reducing crowding to implement social distancing or providing soap and hand sanitizer – places individuals with underlying...

CREEC and 13 Others Send COVID-19 Letter in Support of Immigrants in Detention in Adelanto, CA

Today CREEC and 13 other organizations sent this letter to DHS, ICE and Geo Group officials at the Adelanto Detention Facility in California (where some Fraihat plaintiffs are located). You’ll find the complete list of participating organizations in the signature section of this letter.  All footnotes and links to signatory organizations are at the end of the letter. March 13, 2020  Re: Requesting Parole for COVID-19 Vulnerable Adelanto Detainees Dear Field Officers David Marin, Gabriel Valdez, Art Cortez, and Warden James Janecka: We write on behalf of immigrant legal service providers in Southern California to voice our concern about the urgent humanitarian crisis that COVID-19 presents for our clients and the overall detainee population Adelanto Detention Facility (“ADF”). For the foregoing reasons, we request, among other things, that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) immediately grant humanitarian parole to all vulnerable persons in detention, eventually evaluate all ADF detainees for humanitarian parole, and inform detainees of their right to seek humanitarian release. To that end, we request a meeting with you no later than Thursday, March 19, 2020, to discuss our concerns. The World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, yet ICE has neither announced nor published concrete plans or protocols for screening, mitigating, and treating the virus at ADF. This silence is especially troublesome considering the heightened risk of uncontrolled transmission among persons living in close quarters, DHS’ own Inspector General and the State of California repeatedly condemning the substandard medical conditions at ADF, and DHS’ March 10, 2020, confirmation to the LA Times that four detainees were under observation for infection.1 As you know, ADF has struggled...

Immigrant Advocacy Groups File Civil Rights Complaint Against Constitutional & Disability Rights Violations

Freedom for Immigrants (FFI), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention, and Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) have filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) on behalf of Mr. Anderson Avisai Gutierrez, a 27-year-old Guatemalan asylum seeker detained at the LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana. Despite an attempt to end his own life and severe mental health disabilities, Mr. Gutierrez has been placed in solitary confinement for over eight months, where his mental health has further deteriorated. His continued confinement is in violation of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) own standards, his constitutional rights, and disability law. “Sometimes you miss taking a shower. You don’t eat, because suddenly they forget about you. They forget to wash your clothes. The light is on day and night. 24 hours a day, every day. You are locked up like an animal on exhibition, since everyone that passes can see you,” wrote Gutierrez, in a letter about his time in solitary confinement. “[The prison] is missing a lot of things for the wellness of human beings.”   “Throughout our weeks of visitation, Mr. Gutierrez has always been courteous and easily engaged. However, he also has appeared to me to be extremely distressed with his prolonged detention and filled with such despair. He has been in detention now for 13 months, eight of them in solitary confinement,” said Jennifer Savage, a volunteer with Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention. “He has not received the mental health follow-up he has required.”   “Prolonged solitary confinement is tantamount...