Deaf Inmate Access to Phone Calls

Connecting with family and friends outside prison can be difficult and expensive for all inmates.  However, once they’ve navigated the prison’s red tape and are able to make a call, hearing inmates can directly communicate with their contacts outside the prison. That is not the case for deaf inmates.  Many jails and prisons across the country offer only outdated and ineffective technology to people who are deaf.  Along with partners including the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), CREEC is working to make sure deaf inmates have effective communication in prisons across the country.  This includes access to effective phone calls, including videophones and CapTel (captioned phones). For deaf people whose primary language is American Sign Language (ASL) or another sign language, videophones are necessary for effective phone communication.  Videophones (VPs) allow deaf inmates to communicate in sign language with those outside prison, including friends, family, and attorneys.  When a deaf inmate uses VP to call a deaf person outside prison, there is direct communication in sign language.  When a deaf inmate uses VP to call a hearing person outside prison, the deaf inmate can communicate in sign language through a relay operator who is a sign language interpreter. Although deaf inmates need VP for effective communication, most prisons only provide teletypewriters (TTY), an outdated technology that requires the parties to type back and forth in English (generally the second language for most deaf people). As one expert explained, “consider the prisoner outrage that would result from a . . . policy . . . require[ing] all prisoners to communicate. . . only by using fax machines.  Communication via...

Paying Forward: CREECs Extern Program

“I have a strong interest in immigration law and policy and heard about the vital work CREEC’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project is doing.  Knowing that the attorneys at CREEC have a reputation for doing smart, high-stakes work that improves people’s lives, I applied for a CREEC externship as a way to challenge myself to grow in new areas while doing work I believe in.”  – Allison Crennen-Dunlap, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2019, University of Denver – Sturm College of Law. CREEC Extern Spring 2019 Since 2015, CREEC has offered first-hand experience in civil rights litigation, research and advocacy to area law students through its extern program. Co-Executive Director, Amy Robertson says, “it is always exciting to work with the next generation of civil rights lawyers and leaders, especially in collaboration with Denver Law given its robust commitment to experiential learning.” To date, CREEC has offered experience in civil rights law to 8 externs. This summer is no different, as CREEC welcomes externs Jordan Staley and Kiley Oblisk.  Jordan is a rising third year law student, who will be working with CREEC’s Accessibility Projects including communications access for Deaf and hard of hearing prisoners and hospital patients. During his 2L year, Jordan worked in Denver Law’s Civil Rights Clinic, where he represented a federal prisoner in a religious discrimination case. He’s excited to continue working in civil rights this summer and looks forward to the opportunity to learn more about disability law.  Kiley is a rising second year law student joining CREEC’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project. Prior to law school, she worked for the Colorado Public Defender in Durango, working especially...

Education Report:  Sign Language Interpreters in Medical Settings

Imagine getting sick in, say, rural China. You’ve studied a bit of Chinese and decided to travel there. Then your stomach starts to hurt. A lot. No one at the hospital — from doctors to receptionists — speaks English, so when you try to communicate your symptoms in English, no one understands. They talk to you in Chinese and you understand the basics:  lie down here; where does it hurt? But you need to tell them your medical history; they need to tell you their diagnosis and proposed treatment. Now imagine you’ve come to the hospital in extreme pain, or severely injured in a car accident, or in labor. This is the experience Deaf people encounter every day in their own country in hospitals and doctors’ offices:  they need to explain their symptoms and history and to understand their diagnosis and treatment options in their native language — American Sign Language (ASL) — while medical personnel attempt to communicate with them using written notes or lip reading.  Since ASL is a completely different language from English — and the latter generally a second language for most Deaf people — this puts the Deaf patient in the same situation as the traveler above.  And written notes? Even if you’re fluent in English, imagine conducting your next doctor’s appointment — or emergency room visit or childbirth — by writing notes back and forth with doctors, nurses, and technicians; now imagine (if you’re native English speaker) writing back and forth in French or Russian. Imagine being a doctor and trying to obtain informed consent under these circumstances. Medical personnel should be insisting...

Welcome Martie!

CREEC is extremely excited to announce the opening of CREEC’s Nashville office and the appointment of Martie Lafferty as CREEC’s new Director of Accessibility Projects. Martie will be focusing on representing people with disabilities in a variety of access cases around the country, including access to communications and the built environment.  Martie comes to CREEC with a wealth of experience, including litigating access cases against the State of Tennessee to eliminate barriers preventing access to the state’s court program — which resulted in the landmark case of Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509 (2004) — and against a medical provider who refused to provide a diagnostic MRI to a wheelchair user. She has also represented numerous deaf and hard of hearing people who were refused effective communication in settings including housing, medical offices, hospitals, courts, jails, and legislatures. Prior to joining CREEC, Martie was a Litigation Associate at Stein & Vargas, LLP and previously Legal Director at Disability Rights Tennessee. Her extracurricular activities include picking her banjo, playing with her dogs, and attending concerts. Martie is admitted to practice in...

CREEC mourns the passing of pathbreaking disability rights lawyer and advocate Carrie Ann Lucas.

As we vow to do our best to kick as many asses as thoroughly as Carrie did. The world has lost a fierce advocate, brilliant lawyer, and talented photographer.  Carrie Ann Lucas, a disability rights attorney who pioneered representation for parents with disabilities, died from complications from septic shock.  She was 47 years old. CREEC recognized Carrie in 2016 for her work in intersectional civil rights, celebrating her outstanding leadership in disability rights, parents’ rights, LGBTQI rights, human dignity, and faith. CREEC’s Co-Executive Directors first worked with Carrie not long after they started their small civil rights law firm in 1996, when she asked us to challenge her graduate program at the Iliff School of Theology for their failure to provide access and effective communication. While she was working on her Masters of Divinity there, she worked with others to protest institutional racism on the faculty and in the library.  This was not her first protest:  early on, she protested her high school’s refusal to permit a disabled student to march with the band. After getting her M. Div., she worked at the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, got her law degree at the University of Denver (on the full-ride Chancellor’s Scholarship), got a prestigious Equal Justice Works fellowship, and founded Disabled Parent Rights, a non-profit devoted to ensuring that people with disabilities have equal rights in parenting.  She also became a national expert and trainer on the rights of parents with disabilities and, through her legal advocacy, secured decisions upholding and promoting those rights here in Colorado. Most recently she was recruited by the Colorado Office of Respondent Parents Counsel...

CREEC Announces Immigration Detention Accountability Project

The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center is pleased to announce the launch of the CREEC Immigration Detention Accountability Project and the appointment of Elizabeth Jordan as Director of the Project. The Immigration Detention Accountability Project will focus on three major areas: Impact litigation challenging the conditions of confinement in immigration detention centers; Impact litigation challenging discrimination against detained immigrants with disabilities; and Education and outreach on detention conditions and treatment of immigrants with disabilities. The Project will also provide pro bono direct representation of detained immigrants — in immigration and federal court — in support of these three goals.   Liz Jordan joined CREEC as our first CREEC Fellow in June, 2017, proposing a project to challenge conditions in immigration detention facilities.  Since that time, Liz and other CREEC lawyers and paralegals: have partnered with major national civil rights and immigration nonprofits to file a class action against President Trump and Attorney General Sessions challenging conditions of detained immigrants at Victorville federal medium security prison; are currently working on several other impact cases; have represented several individual detained immigrants; have spoken widely on each of these topics; and have prepared and circulated educational materials on the rights of detained immigrants with disabilities. Based on the success of Liz’s fellowship project, we decided to create a permanent Immigration Detention Accountability Project. The Project joins — and complements — CREEC’s ongoing education and litigation projects challenging discrimination in government, prisons and jails, public accommodations, housing, and other arenas.         The Project’s website can be found by clicking here, please check up on that site for Project and case related updates...