U. S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh granted final approval to the consent decree in Cole v. County of Santa Clara on March 21, 2019.  Lead plaintiff David Cole commented on the settlement in article on April 4, 2019 in the Mercury NewsConsent decree signals overhaul in disabled access at Santa Clara County jails:

“David Cole, the lead plaintiff, recounted how he was admitted into jail in 2012 with a broken foot and that it took weeks for him to obtain a wheelchair — one of the numerous grievances he had with his treatment.  ‘I’m very happy with the results of this suit,’ said Cole — who was represented by the nonprofit Disability Rights Advocates and the San Francisco-based Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld — on Thursday.  ‘There was very little being done concerning the changes that needed to be made prior to DRA’s involvement in this whole situation. There was no ear toward making things consistent across the board with mobility impairment in the general population areas of the jail.'”

The following press release was issued on February 1, 2019 after the court granted preliminary approval of the consent decree:

San Jose, CA –The U.S. District Court granted preliminary approval in Cole v. County of Santa Clara, N.D. Cal No. 5:16-cv-06594 (filed Nov. 2016) to a Consent Decree to address conditions for inmates with mobility disabilities within the Santa Clara County Jails (the “Jails”), including the Main Jail Complex, located in San Jose, CA, and the Elmwood Correctional Complex located in Milpitas, CA.   A copy of the Consent Decree is available here.   On January 30th the Court issued an order extending the period for class members to file objections from February 28, 2019 to March 7, 2019. A revised copy of the Notice with the March 7, 2019 deadline for objections is available here.

The agreement follows over three years of negotiations between incarcerated persons with mobility disabilities, represented by Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld, LLP and Disability Rights Advocates.  The County has agreed to address physical barriers within the Jails and to improve policies and procedures to ensure inmates with mobility disabilities have access to programs, assistive devices, and accessible housing, bathing, and dining facilities.

“We are pleased that, after years of difficult negotiations, the parties were able to come together to develop the Consent Decree, which will improve the lives of thousands of inmates with mobility disabilities now and into the future,” said counsel for Plaintiffs, Lisa Ells, a partner with Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld in San Francisco. 

Pursuant to the Consent Decree, the County has further agreed, among other things, to improve policies, procedures, and practices for providing accommodations to inmates with mobility disabilities in the Jails, including in the areas of the County’s:  (1) intake process; (2) verification of mobility disability process; (3) issuance, retention, and denial of mobility device(s); (4) classification and housing of inmates with mobility disabilities; (5) tracking of inmates with mobility disabilities and disability-related needs; (6) provision of programs and services; (7) ADA Coordinator position; (8) ADA-training of custody and custody health staff; and (9) ADA-related grievance and request systems.

The Consent Decree also requires that the County undertake significant construction to remedy physical barriers at the County Jails including increasing the number of ADA-accessible cells, removing barriers in the County’s booking area, medical areas, dining areas, education and program areas, yards, and along paths of travel.  Finally, the Consent Decree requires the County to retain experts to monitor the County’s implementation of, and compliance with, the Consent Decree. The Consent Decree further provides for counsel from Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP and Disability Rights Advocates to monitor the County’s compliance.

The County has already begun these efforts and has allocated over $100 million dollars to ADA jail improvements.  A final fairness hearing will be held March 21, 2019.

Media Contacts:

Lisa Ells
Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld, LLP, (415) 433-6830

Michelle Iorio
Disability Rights Advocates, (510) 665-8644

Santa Clara County Office of Public Affairs
Main Number (408) 299-5151
Media Line (408) 299-5119
Fax Number (408) 295-2192