IM this article to a friend!

May 29, 2003

Disabled jail inmates must be accommodated while in county facilities

From: Amarillo Globe News, TX - May 29, 2003


When detectives were investigating the homicide of 33-day-old Kyle Jordan Bland after he died May 17, one challenge they faced was communication. The four adults who lived with the infant, including his mother, are deaf.

Lt. Gary Trupe of Potter-Randall Special Crimes Unit said sign language interpreters assisted with the investigation.

Kelsey Lamar Davis, 28, a resident in the child's apartment, was arrested May 21 and charged with capital murder. He is in Potter County Detention Center on $250,000 bond.

The Texas Administrative Code, which regulates county jail operations, requires jails to treat inmates with disabilities in accordance with Americans with Disabilities Act.

Lt. Charlie Johnson of the Potter County Sheriff's Office oversees medical and other operations at Potter County Detention Center. The center can hold up to 598 inmates and, according to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, has a daily average of 523.

Many factors go into jail housing decisions, Johnson said.

Davis is in a single cell because of his charge and his disability, he said.

"We try to keep them (people charged with capital offenses) isolated for their own protection," Johnson said.

Suspects are asked a series of questions about their health, communicable diseases, suicidal thoughts and disabilities, he said.

A point system determines their housing, Johnson said.

People with disabilities go into general population and shower stalls and about half the cells are built to accommodate wheelchairs, Johnson said.

Some individuals are housed in a single cell in the medical ward, Johnson said.

People with a hooked prosthesis that might be used to harm themselves or others will go into a single cell, he said.

A TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) that allows the deaf and the hard of hearing to communicate via telephone is located in the Potter County Sheriff's Office, Johnson said.

Randall County Jail can hold 488 inmates and has a daily average of 211.5, according to a jail standards report.

"We do have people with health problems and disabilities that are incarcerated here." said Danny Alexander of the Randall County Sheriff's Office. "We definitely take care of them."

Jailers learn to work with disabled inmates as part of their training to become certified jailers, he said.

The jail meets ADA criteria and the central control area has a ramp so a person in a wheelchair can work in it, Alexander said.

A TDD is available at the jail and in dispatch, he said.

© 1996-2003 Amarillo Globe-News