A federal judge has granted class-action status to a lawsuit brought by deaf inmates alleging the Illinois Department of Corrections violates their civil rights. The complaint, first filed in 2011, claims deaf and partially deaf prisoners have limited access to sign language interpreters, hearing aids and other accommodations. Attorneys say the result is exclusion because the prisoners can't communicate. That means effectively missing religious services, court-mandated classes, medical visits and in some cases, emergency evacuations.
The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, asking for system-wide changes like requiring hearing tests when inmates are first incarcerated. Both sides had been negotiating an agreement, but an attorney says that failed. The judge granted class-action status last week.
Both sides are due in court in December.