SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A deaf inmate is suing Onondaga County over the lack of any sign language interpreters at the Justice Center jail.
Joseph Williams, 39, sued the county in federal court last week, claiming the county is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing an interpreter for him.
Williams has been totally deaf since birth, and learned to communicate only through American sign language, according to his lawsuit. He can't read lips and has a limited ability to read and write, according to his lawyer, Josh Cotter of Legal Services of Central New York.
Williams has been at the Justice Center since November, when he was arrested on burglary charges related to a break-in at a Syracuse home in which copper pipes were stolen.
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A deaf man able to communicate only with sign language has alleged in a federal lawsuit that he was held for six weeks in the Arlington County jail last year after jailers failed to provide an interpreter or allow him to call attorneys or a friend by videophone.
The suit alleges that Abreham Zemedagegehu was held for more than 24 hours before he knew why he had been arrested. He was administered a tuberculosis shot without his consent, often went hungry because he couldn’t hear alerts for mealtime and was unable to call friends or an attorney because of inadequate technology in the jail — all of which violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the lawsuit said.
“The lack of access to communication during the booking process exacerbated the feelings of frustration, humiliation, anger, anxiety, isolation, confusion, and loss of dignity that Mr. Zemedagegehu otherwise would have experienced as a result of his arrest and detention,” said the lawsuit, which was first reported Thursday by the Associated Press.
Read More . . . incommunicado
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