A former inmate in the D.C. correctional system is suing the city for alleged mistreatment. The D.C. man is deaf, and the lawsuit claims he was unable to effectively communicate during his period of confinement. It also alleges his treatment got worse when he complained.
44-year-old William Pierce is profoundly deaf. He wound up with a 60-day sentence in the city's correction system after an altercation with his partner resulted in a conviction for simple assault.
At the order of the judge, Pierce actually wound up in the Correctional Treatment Facility to get help. The CTF adjoins the city jail.
Arthur Spitzer, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation's Capital, said in an interview: "There was no interpreter there for [Pierce] at intake, or at any of his medical appointments -- he had some medical problems -- or at any of his classes. He was taking an anger management class, and he didn't know what was going on. He didn't know what people were saying. He couldn't participate in the group discussion(s)."
The lawsuit says, under the Americans With Disabilities Act, accommodations for the deaf must be made so inmates can communicate. Things got worse for William Pierce when he complained, according to his attorney.
"He was put in solitary confinement for two weeks, where he was locked in his cell for 23 hours a day," alleged Spitzer. "And some guard tried to explain to him (as best he could understand it) that they put him there because they thought he had asked for protective custody, which he'd never asked for. And we allege in the complaint that we think it was actually retaliation for complaining and trying to get an interpreter."
Pierce is now out, after 51 days in custody. His lawsuit is seeking unspecified monetary damages. And, according to Spitzer, his client wants policy changes at the jail (and the adjoining Correctional Treatment Facility) so that deaf inmates can better communicate.
A spokeswoman for the jail acknowledged receipt of the lawsuit, but declined to comment other than saying it would be sent over to the city's Attorney General. That office defends lawsuits filed against the D.C. government.