On Friday, January 13, 2012 Judge Claudia Wilken of U.S. District Court, Northern District of California ordered the State of California to track and accommodate the needs of state prisoners and parolees with disabilities who are being held in county jails.  This order is the latest chapter in the 17-year-old Armstrong class action handled by Rosen, Bien & Galvan on behalf of prisoners and parolees with disabilities in California state prisons seeking accommodations for their disabilities under the ADA and other federal statutes. 

RBG’s Gay Grunfeld briefed and argued the case for the Armstrong class plaintiffs.  According to a San Francisco Chronicle article, “The ruling should reduce needless suffering and make the jails safer, said Gay Grunfeld, a lawyer for the inmates. ‘When the state chooses to house its parolees in the county jails, it can’t look the other way,’ she said.”  In a report on KQED Radio, Grunfeld goes on to say, “The main difference going forward is that there will be more information provided and hopefully fewer of the examples of persons denied wheelchairs, canes and listening devices when they’re in the county jails on parole holds.”

While the State of California conceded that state prisoners and parolees with disabilities are not being provided proper accommodations at county jails and that they do not have access to a proper grievance system, the State argued that under the realignment statute state parolees are no longer members of the Armstrong class and that the plaintiffs motion was broader than necessary.  Judge Wilken rejected their argument and ordered the state to take steps to ensure that the needs of parolees with disabilities are accommodated, including establishment of an adequate disability grievance process.

According to the Chronicle:  “Wilken said the state doesn’t even know where paroled inmates with disabilities are housed and what services they need, despite a computer system that keeps track of disabled state prisoners and non-incarcerated parolees.  She ordered state officials to give each county a daily list of disabled parolees in its jail, and to contact all inmates to make sure they receive all needed accommodations.”

Full text of the order is available here:  Order Granting Plaintiffs_ Renewed Motion to Require Defs to Track and Accommodate (1974) 1-13-12.