November 14, 2011

Contact: Deborah Read, (314) 652-3114;

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The ACLU of Eastern Missouri settled two lawsuits filed on behalf of prisoners in the Jefferson City Correctional Center, which is operated by the Missouri Department of Corrections. The ACLU had filed suits on behalf of Jeffrey W. Rogers and Andrew Madden alleging that the Department’s blanket policy of denying inmates the use of motorized wheelchairs violated the Americans With Disabilities Act. While the Department recognized that both men need wheelchairs and neither could operate his wheelchair independently, the policy required the inmates to rely on a “pusher.” Pushers were other inmates assigned to push a disabled inmate’s manual wheelchair. Under terms of the agreement, both men will be permitted to use a motorized wheelchair in the prison.

Both Rogers and Madden have physical impairments that substantially limit mobility. The ACLU alleged that the Department’s refusal to accommodate Rogers’s and Madden’s disability related needs prevented them from independently participating in the prison’s services, programs, or activities, including dining hall, medical visits, educational programs, use of the library and gym, social meetings, and religious activities.

Rogers and Madden have purchased motorized wheelchairs for their use; however, the Department would not allow them to be delivered to the prison. Under the settlement, the wheelchairs will be delivered to the inmates. The Department has changed its policy so that inmates who require wheelchairs but cannot operate them independently will be allowed to purchase a motorized wheelchair at their own expense. The settlement comes after judges in both cases denied the Department’s motions to dismiss.

“America has a shameful history of cutting off people with disabilities from the rest of society by sequestering them inside their homes, or consigning them to isolated, often squalid institutions,” said Brenda Jones, Executive Director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. “The Department of Corrections is to be commended for ending a policy that placed disabled inmates in vulnerable positions.”

“Missouri can meet its obligation to safely incarcerate prisoners and provide them with the accommodations they need to independently access prison programs and activities,” said Anthony E. Rothert, Legal Director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri and one of the attorneys for Rogers and Madden. “Putting inmates with disabilities at the dependent end of an unequal power relationship with other inmates is bad policy.”