A former inmate is suing the District of Columbia, alleging that the city's Department of Corrections violated both the Americans with Disabilities Act and its own policies by denying him an interpreter during his incarceration.
William Pierce filed the suit along with the American Civil Liberties Union in U.S. District Court Friday.
The suit alleges that Pierce, 44, who was sentenced to 60 days in prison for assault early last year, was not given an interpreter despite him filing 12 written requests and three grievances. Pierce is what is described as profoundly deaf. He uses American Sign Language to communicate and has difficulty reading English.
The suit alleges that Pierce's partner, David Holder, was told that the jail could not "justify" the cost of an interpreter. Authorities also allegedly told Holder it would take between six and eight months to vet and approve an interpreter. Pierce was held at the Central Treatment Facility, a private facility run by the Corrections Corporation of America, which has a contract with the Department of Corrections.
The suit also alleges that the lack of an interpreter served to deny Pierce access to some of his required medications (Pierce is HIV-positive), as well as to substance abuse classes, which involve group discussions.
In addition, the suit alleges that Pierce's hands were handcuffed during visitations with his mother and partner, further limiting his ability to communicate.
William Pierce (Photo courtesy American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation's Capital)