Inmates with Disabilities in the LA County Jail
For several hours, as he waited to get booked for petty theft at the Los Angeles County Jail in October, Peter Johnson told deputies he needed to go to the restroom.
Although other inmates were free to use the facilities, Johnson -- a paraplegic -- was told there were none in the area equipped to accommodate the physically disabled. Guards, he said, seemed indifferent to his plight, telling him he simply had to wait.
"We are treated like the worst of the worst because of our disabilities," said Johnson, who ultimately lost control of his bowels and was forced to sit in his own feces for more than six hours.
Johnson, who is still incarcerated, and more than a dozen other disabled inmates complain that the county jail system, by design, discriminates against them.
Simple tasks like taking a shower, getting onto a bunk or using the lavatory become impossible.
A recent study commissioned by the Disability Rights Legal Center and American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California found severe problems with how disabled inmates are treated. The report concluded that the Sheriff's Department was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.
Lawyers for the two groups say they plan to file a lawsuit against the county today that would seek a court order requiring that the jails to comply with anti-discrimination laws.