LASD settles lawsuit to make jails more accessible for disabled

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- After a seven-year legal battle, a landmark settlement will make Los Angeles County jails more accessible for inmates with disabilities.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department settled a lawsuit Monday to make jails compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Under the settlement, the sheriff's department will buy and maintain hundreds of new wheelchairs and provide physical therapy on site for disabled inmates.

The inspector general will also keep tabs on the department's progress.

The suit was brought forth by former inmate Peter Johnson.

"When I came in they took my personal wheelchair and gave me a wheelchair that the seat was caved in, I had no footrest. I had to tie a string around my wheelchair to hold my feet up," Johnson said.

His attorney Melinda Bird said the sheriff's department is already working on improvements to Men's Central Jail and Twin Towers Jail.

They're "building a wheelchair-compliant, wheelchair-accessible unit in Twin Towers (Jail) that has accessible bathrooms and lowered phones and all of the things that people need when they have mobility impairment," Bird said.

Sheriff Jim McDonnell recently gave Eyewitness News an exclusive tour of Men's Central Jail. He admitted a lot of work needs to be done.

"You got to provide a location that is humane. You got to treat people as well as you can treat them. When you look at the environment we're in -- ADA compliance, all of those issues -- these facilities were built before any of those rules were in place," McDonnell said.

In a written statement to Eyewitness News, the sheriff's department said, "As exemplified by the settlement and its approval by the Court, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is committed to complying with the American's with Disabilities Act, which includes housing mobility impaired inmates in accessible locations in the jails."

Sheriff's officials said the department has created a volunteer ADA compliance group focused on the rights of the disabled. The department also plans to build additional housing for mobility impaired inmates.

Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved.