Tuesday, October 1, 2013

SJLC and ACLU File Class Action Lawsuit to End Unconstitutional Postcard-only Mail Policy at Wyandotte County Jail

Kansas City, MO - The ACLU Foundation of Kansas and the Social Justice Law Collective (SJLC) today announced the filing of a federal class action lawsuit against the Wyandotte County Sheriff.  The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the Sheriff's postcard-only policy for jail inmate mail.  This policy severely restricts the free speech rights of inmates and their friends and family to communicate with each other.
The ACLU and SJLC are seeking a court order against Wyandotte County Sheriff Donald Ash, in order to put an end to  the unconstitutional practice of limiting jail inmates and their family and friends to correspondence using only postcards.  The vast majority of the people to whom the policy applies are awaiting trial and, therefore, are legally presumed to be innocent.

"Writing private letters is important to inmates and their friends and families because it allows them to stay connected and to express – at length and in detail – their private concerns about family relationships, health problems, and financial issues, among other things," said Doug Bonney, Legal Director of the ACLU Foundation of Kansas.  "If this policy had been in place in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. could not have sent his now famous letter from the Birmingham Jail.  This postcard-only policy punishes inmates as well as their friends and family for no good purpose." 

Communication through mail is often the only practical form of communication available to inmates.  Often, family members live far away and cannot visit regularly.  Moreover, telephone calls from the jail are very expensive – costing $7.00 for a fifteen minute call -- and in-person visits are limited to one hour per week.  These barriers make it all the more essential that inmates be allowed to correspond through regular letters and not be limited to sending and receiving postcards.

"Simply because a family member is in jail doesn't mean he ceases to be part of his or her family.  Yet, this postcard-only policy forces them to either write everything in abbreviated form, which can be read by anyone, or write nothing at all.  The Sheriff's policy effectively silences inmates if they are unwilling to risk airing personal or confidential information to the entire world," said Joshua Glickman, co-counsel with SJLC. 

Doug Bonney, Legal Director, ACLU of Kansas & Western Missouri, (816) 994-3311 (direct), dbonney@aclukswmo.org
Joshua Glickman, Founding Member Attorney, Social Justice Law Collective, (913) 213-3064 (direct), josh@sjlawcollective.com

Visit SJLC's website here »
Visit the ACLU Foundation of Kansas's website here >>
See the Press Release here »
Read the Complaint here » 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

SJLC Files Suit Against the Smithsonian Institution and Pulseworks, LLC for Disability Discrimination

For Release After Conference Call Press Conference: August 15, 2013, 10:30 a.m. EST

Max and Jake Gold, along with SJLC attorneys Shawn Heller and Joshua Glickman, filed a federal discrimination lawsuit today in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against the Smithsonian Institution and Pulseworks, LLC, for denying Max access to the flight simulators at the Air & Space Museum.  Max suffers from a rare vascular anomaly birth defect that caused his right leg to be amputated as a child, and has left him dependent on a wheelchair.
Last summer, Max and his brother, Jake, traveled from Merrick, NY, to Washington, D.C., to visit the Smithsonian's many museums.  Their first stop was at the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum -- particularly the museum's flight simulator exhibit -- as Max is a self-described “aeronautical fanatic,” and is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation Security Systems from the State University of New York at Farmingdale.

That excitement soon ended, however, as Max was denied the ability to use any of the flight simulators, even after being told he could do so.  Instead of a day spent enjoying D.C., Max and his brother were instead insulted and berated by the operators of the simulator exhibit, who absurdly insisted that they see Max stand up from his wheelchair and walk up several stairs.  Completely uninterested in the nature or extent of Max's disability, the operators directed their comments and questions to Max's brother, and refused to even acknowledge Max as a crowd of patrons looked on, leaving Max and his brother angry and humiliated.

Jake has been lifting Max out of his wheelchair for almost his entire life, and by doing so, has enabled Max to enjoy equal access to activities that he would otherwise not be able to participate in.  “We were just trying to do what we normally do,” said Max when discussing what happened.  “It is shameful that such a thing could happen at the Smithsonian,” added Jake, “I couldn’t believe that the supervisor wouldn’t even give my brother the respect of directing her comments and questions to him.”  Despite his treatment, Max is determined to see this lawsuit through, and noting that he "will keep fighting to make sure others with disabilities are not discriminated against, like I was.”

Max has advanced claims for injunctive relief and damages under the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act.  These laws require that places of public accommodation, executive agencies, and recipients of federal funds make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities.  Despite these laws, the Defendants refused to accommodate Max, thereby denying him equal access and subjecting him and his brother to humiliation and ridicule.

For further information contact: Shawn Heller or Joshua Glickman at 202-709-5744 or media@sjlawcollective.com.  

Visit SJLC's website here »

See the Press Release here »

Read the Complaint here » 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Florida Department of Corrections Sued Over Violent Assault

SJLC and Peters & Scoon recently filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of an inmate who was violently assaulted by prison officials from the Florida Department of Corrections.  See the complaint here »

Friday, March 8, 2013

SJLC Joins National Effort to Overturn California Postcard-Only Mail Policy

Today, SJLC joined more than 50 local and national organizations in sending a demand to Santa Barbara County, California, Sheriff Bill Brown to cancel a proposed plan to prohibit people confined at the county jail from receiving letters from home, and requiring incoming correspondence to take place via postcards only.  The member attorneys of SJLC strongly believe that postcard-only correctional mail policies severely restrict the constitutional rights of inmates and their families, and are dedicated to challenging such policies.  Read more here »