Plaintiff Karl Rogers–a single-leg amputee–says prison guards took away his wheelchair and made him hop his way into a shower. Then they threatened to punish him for reporting them.
A half-dozen inmates are suing the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (MDPSCS), claiming the state’s prisons systematically discriminate against disabled detainees.
The lawsuit, reported by The Baltimore Sun, alleges repeat violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act at facilities across the state. The filing names the MDPSCS and a number of corrections officials as defendants.
Many of the allegations outlined within the suit are disturbing. One inmate, Karl Rogers—a single-leg amputee—was incarcerated in the Baltimore-area Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center. Despite his visible disability, Rogers was forced to shower alone, without help or physical assistance. He slipped in the shower and seriously injured himself.
The lawsuit claims that MRDCC guards wouldn’t let Rogers enter the facility in a wheelchair, confiscating it at the entrance. Furthermore, the MRDCC itself allegedly lacks “handicapped showers, handrails, anti-slip guards, or shower chairs for disabled persons.”
“Consequently, MRDCC staff forced Mr. Rogers to hop on one leg in and out of the shower facilities on wet floors,” the suit states. “MRDCC staff also refused to allow Mr. Rogers to bring his forearm crutches or any other assistive devices into the shower with him, despite the patent risk of harm.”
After sustaining the fall and injury, Rogers was moved to the Dorsey Run Correctional Facility—a center Maryland Corrections claims is ADA-compliant.
But the lawsuit charges that Dorsey Run did little to accommodate Rogers or his handicap. The wheelchairs provide were allegedly in poor repair, barely functional. And many areas within the prison lacked wheelchair access, making it difficult for Rogers to effectively navigate.
When Rogers filed multiple complaints, he was threatened with punishment.
Rogers’ claims corroborate an announcement made a week after the suit was filed—that the Maryland Office of the Attorney General suspects that corrections offers were essentially running a “criminal enterprise” within state prisons, assaulting inmates and retaliating against any who spoke out against them.
Nevertheless, the Attorney General’s Office is defending the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services in the suit, along with individually accused corrections officials.
Allen Honick, an attorney representing Rogers and the five other plaintiffs, says the state-level charges against officers involved in “criminal enterprise” illustrate broad, systematic issues in Maryland corrections.
“We don’t trust any other public institution in this state to self-police, except the correctional system,” Honick said. “Complaints get buried and complaints never get out of the walls of the prisons.”