Harold Hempstead takes on the cause of Disabled Rights in the Florida Department of Corrections. From the information he’s also submitted to Rick Scott, Governor of Florida and the U.S. Department of Justice, it would seem that the needs and safety of the mobility-impaired inmates are not being taken seriously. The following affidavit meticulously details the many obstacles and difficulties daily encountered by those convicts confined to wheelchairs. Once again, the law has prescribed a series of measures to be taken and standards to be upheld and these are simply not being respected and implemented properly. Once again, it takes the efforts of a prisoner to raise these matters and ask the authorities to uphold their own laws and regulations. When those authorities start listening to Harold Hempstead and implementing the strategies already in place for protecting disabled rights, and basic human rights; as well as the many other grave matters that he has raised; then perhaps Florida can one day truly claim to be a place administered by justice, democracy and the rule of law.
To: U.S. Department of Justice, Disability Rights Section, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington D.C. 20530.
Florida Governor Rick Scott, 400 South Monroe Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399.
Florida Department of Corrections, Attn: A.D.A. Coordinator, 501 South Calhoun Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399.
The Federal A.D.A. Act (42 U.S.C. : 12101) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Acts (29 U.S.C. : 794) apply to prisoners, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections V. Yeskey, 524 U.S. 206, 118 S.CT.1952 (1998); Harris V. Thigpen, 941 F.3D 1495 (11th Cir. 1991).
MOBILITY IMPAIRED INMATES
The wheelchair impaired inmates are housed in 8 housing dorms at Okeechobee C.I. In order for them: to leave their housing dorms and go to the chowhall 3 times a day to eat their meals; to go to medical, dental and mental health call-outs for treatment; to go to chapel, law-library, library, education and classification call-outs; to go to the inmate canteen (commissary) to purchase food items, stationary and hygiene items; and to go to the inmate visitation park for visitation they have to use the large quantity of interconnecting sidewalks. The sidewalks have dozens of large cracks and minor potholes in them. Oftentimes wheelchair impaired inmates are ejected from their wheelchairs when going over the cracks and by accident fall into the potholes. 28 CFR 361; Ganstine V. Buss, 211 U.S. Dist. Lexis 148497. This violation is causing A.D.A. inmates to be physically hurt.
The dirt and/or grass on both sides of all the sidewalks, etc. are parallel or lesser in elevation than the sidewalks. Often times wheelchair impaired inmates roll off the sidewalks, or are pushed off the sidewalks by other inmates intentionally. When this happens the wheelchair impaired inmate is ejected from his wheelchair when the wheels of the wheelchair hit the dirt and/or grass. 28 CFR 36. This violation is causing A.D.A. inmates to be physically hurt. If the dirt and/or grass was elevated above the sidewalks, etc. it would prevent the foregoing.
1.) 28 Code of Federal Regulations 36 is the A.D.A. Accessibility Guide.
The entrances to the 8 housing dorms and numerous other entrances at Okeechobee C.I. are unsafe for wheelchair impaired inmates to pass through. The elevated steel that the wheelchair impaired inmates have to cross over in the entrance ways oftentimes causes them to be ejected from their wheelchairs if they’re not very careful. 28 CFR 36. This violation is causing A.D.A. inmates to be physically hurt.
Several of the restrooms at Okeechobee C.I. don’t provide accessible door hardware that can be opened with a closed fist as required by 28 CFR 36 Section 4.23.9.
Securely attached matts are not provided at the entrance of each building and into each wheelchair impaired shower in violation of 28 CFR 36 Section 4.5.3.
The counter in the law library that law clerks and orderlies stand behind to help the inmate population with their law work is more than 34 inches high from the floor in violation of 28 CFR 36 Section 5.2.
The U.S. postal mailbox and inmate request box are more than 34 inches high from the ground in violation of 28 CFR 36 Section 5.2.
The restrooms don’t have papertowel dispensers at an accessible height in violation of 28 CFR 36 4.22.7.
Okeechobee C.I. doesn’t provide adequate direction and accurate information signage for A.D.A. inmates in violation of 28 CFR Section 4.1.3 (16).
Okeechobee C.I. has 36 wheelchair accessible cells. 6 of these cells are in confinement wings. Okeechobee C.I. doesn’t have a sufficient amount of wheelchair accessible cells to house wheelchair impaired inmates in violation of 28 CFR 36; Florida Statute 553.503. This is causing wheelchair impaired inmates to be housed in cells and living quarters that are not in compliance with the A.D.A.
The wheelchair impaired inmate showers have showerheads stuck to the walls like non A.D.A. wheelchair impaired showers. These types of showerheads make it where wheelchair impaired inmates can’t properly wash the whole backside of their bodies that are in the wheelchairs. Okeechobee C.I.’s failure to provide handheld showerheads that are connected to the showerheads on the walls via a hose so wheelchair impaired inmates can properly shower themselves is causing them to be denied proper hygiene and is in violation of 28 CFR 36.
Okeechobee C.I. has 2 inmate recreation yards. One of the recreation yards doesn’t have any cement, etc. sidewalks on it. Wheelchair impaired inmates cannot access it. As it concerns the second recreation yard, wheelchair impaired inmates have sidewalks that go to the front and side of the recreation building, basketball court, small pavilion, and toilets. On this recreation yard wheelchair impaired inmates don’t have access to the 2 large pavilions, 2 water kegs, the football and soccor fields; and because the basketball court only has enough cement to make the court, wheelchair impaired inmates cannot park their wheelchairs on the basketball court. These violations prohibit wheelchair impaired inmates from being able to watch sporting events like the rest of the general population. Approximately 90 percent of this recreation yard cannot be accessed by wheelchair impaired inmates. None of the 3 pavilions have tables under them that can be used by wheelchair impaired inmates. Neither of the recreation yards have a cement sidewalk that go all around them for wheelchair impaired inmates. These violations make it where wheelchair impaired inmates don’t go to the recreation yards to sit in the sun, get fresh air, or watch sporting events. 28 CFR 36; Florida Accessibility Code (Florida Statute 553.503); Ganstine V. Buss, 2011 U.S. Dist. Lexis 148497 (2011).
Wheelchair impaired inmates cannot have access to the inmate canteens; medical, mental health, dental and classification departments, pilline to receive medication; and library, law library and education departments without travelling up and down inclined cement sidewalks. Also, to exit the north and south chowhalls wheelchair impaired inmates have to travel down inclined cement sidewalks. The health of a lot of the wheelchair impaired inmates prohibit them from being able to push themselves up the inclined cement sidewalks. If a staff or inmate don’t help them up the inclined sidewalk, they’ll have to wait at the bottom of said sidewalk until somebody agrees to help them. Also, a lot of the wheelchair impaired inmates can’t safely control their wheelchairs when having to travel down the inclined cement sidewalks. This oftentimes scares them to attempt such. Some of the wheelchair impaired inmates who attempt to travel down the inclined sidewalks without help end up hitting inmates at the bottom of the inclined sidewalks and sometimes hit the fences and/or go into the dirt and/or grass which are about 12 feet from the bottom of the inclined sidewalks. Also, these inclined cement sidewalks don’t have handrails. 28 CFR 36.
Inmates that are acting as impaired assistants with wheelchair impaired inmates are extorting, physically and (possibly sexually) battering wheelchair impaired inmates. 28 CFR 36.
The law library at Okeechobee C.I. doesn’t have a primary research book/source for A.D.A. inmates to research A.D.A. violations. This violation makes it where A.D.A. inmates can’t properly defend themselves against A.D.A. violations in violation of the A.D.A. and 28 CFR 36.
For the U.S. Department of Justice Disability Rights Section, Florida Governor, and Florida Department of Corrections to take immediate action to correct the A.D.A. violations mentioned herein that are at Okeechobee Correctional Institution.
Executed on this 2 day of December 2016.
Under penalty of perjury I swear that everything stated herein is true and correct.
Affiant: (Signature of Harold Hempstead appears here on original handwritten document)
Harold Hempstead, D.C.# 268866, Okeechobee Correctional Institution, 3420 North East 168th Street, Okeechobee, Florida 34972
C.C. ACLU of Florida (Howard Simon)
Stop Prison Abuse Now (Steven Wetstein)
Disability Rights Florida (Molly Paris)
Florida Legal Service (Peter Sleasman)
Florida Justice Institute (Randall Berg)
Human Rights Defence Center (Lance T.Weber)
Miami Herald Newspaper (Julie Brown)
WTVT Fox 13 Tampa (Craig Patrick)
CBS 4 Miami (Michele Gillen)
New Yorker Magazine (Eyal Press)
Tampa Bay Times
Palm Beach Post (Pat Beall)