It’s been over 25 years since RBGG proved in federal court in the ongoing case that is now called Armstrong v. Newsom that California’s prison and parole systems violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by discriminating against prisoners and parolees with mobility, sight, hearing, learning, mental and kidney disabilities. We secured systemwide injunctive relief to end the discrimination, which was upheld on appeal. See Armstrong v. Wilson, 942 F. Supp. 1252 (N.D. Cal. 1996), aff’d 124 F.3d 1019 (9th Cir. 1997).
We are pleased to announce an important amendment to the Armstrong Remedial Plan (“ARP”), the first since 2006. The amendment is here. This amendment as described in detail below is a major achievement in the Armstrong litigation and will reduce recidivism, while serving as a model for other jurisdictions and cases. The Daily Journal’s Verdicts & Settlements published a summary of the amendment here.
In May 2021, the firm sent a demand letter supported by declarations of class members that described the inadequacy of CDCR and Division of Adult Parole Operations’ (“DAPO”) approach to transitioning from prison to parole, especially for people with disabilities. In response, the state agreed to negotiate significant changes to their processes and to include them in a stipulated revision to the ARP. The Revised Parole Field Operations section of the ARP will provide lasting and meaningful change for our clients, including:
- CDCR and CCHCS will ensure everyone is released with a 60-day supply of their prescription medications and their durable medical equipment, and will replace canes, wheelchairs, and walkers that are lost or damaged during the first 30 days of parole free of charge.
- CCHCS must provide a clinical assessment for every person releasing from CDCR about their disability, medical, and mental health needs, which will be used for transitional housing placements and to facilitate a warm handoff from prison to the community.
- Defendants must prohibit CDCR-funded transitional housing programs from rejecting class members because of a disability, and educate the programs on accommodations for people with disabilities, and on resources to help them do so.
- 1824 disability request forms shall be available at all CDCR-funded programs, and CDCR will expand their annual inspections of these programs to include ADA assets and features.
- CDCR will provide accessible transportation from prisons to parole counties, and to mandatory meetings and programs, to all class members whose disabilities make it difficult for them to use public transportation.
- Parole agents must conference with a supervisor after any suspected parole violation to evaluate whether a failure to accommodate a disability or the disability itself impacted the class member’s ability to understand or comply with a parole condition, and take the disability into account when determining if a violation occurred and the appropriate penalty.
- CDCR will mandate that benefits applications (e.g., Medi-Cal, Social Security, Veterans’ Benefits) are filed for all releasing individuals no later than 90 days before their release date, to decrease the likelihood of a benefits gap during the critical transition from prison.
- CDCR will track all parolees with disabilities (including Coleman class members) enrolled in or on the wait list for any CDCR-funded transitional housing program, and provide Plaintiffs with a monthly production of these tracking logs.
- The Revised ARP also updates the sections on learning disabilities, effective communication, and sign language to incorporate reforms to CDCR and DAPO policies that the parties negotiated since the last revision to the remedial plan.