Legal Aid sues MN Department of Corrections; nets victory for deaf/hard-of-hearing inmates  

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: (Minneapolis, Minn.)  — As of July 1, prison policy is changing to ensure Minnesota inmates, with hearing loss, will get the same critical messaging that hearing prisoners get over the public address (PA) system. This is just one concession of a settlement agreement, following a lawsuit filed by Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s Minnesota Disability Law Center on behalf of two inmates — one deaf, the other hard of hearing. 

Attorney Sonja Peterson of the Minnesota Disability Law Center said both men at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater were missing critical announcements necessary for day-to-day living and long-term health needs.

“The prison system dictates when inmates line up at the front of their cell to be counted, eat and get medication,” she said. “If they miss these announcements, which also include time for work, recreation and visitors, they can be disciplined. The impact is not only detrimental to their well-being and rehabilitation, it’s inhumane. It’s like being in a prison inside of a prison.” 

Prior to the lawsuit, the Minnesota Department of Corrections, urged by Legal Aid, provided pagers to help corrections staff bridge the communication gap. 

“We learned, however, staff were not using the pagers,” added Legal Aid Deputy Director Jenn Purrington. “That prompted us to take legal action.” 

The settlement agreement requires the Minnesota Department of Corrections to issue a new policy stating that pages must be made immediately after the PA announcement (except in the case of an emergency); to give a memo to the Stillwater correction officers about the policy; and to detail protocols for training staff, investigating complaints and taking disciplinary action, should staff fail to follow the new policies.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections is also ordered to pay Legal Aid $66K for attorney fees.


Media Contact:
Lisa Ramirez
Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid | 612-746-3641