US Deaf News: Suicidal US deaf prisoner “drew a picture of himself crying”

Posted on September 18, 2012

The Denver Post has reported that the city has agreed to pay nearly $700,000 to settle a lawsuit after a deaf man committed suicide in a city jail in 2005.

Shawn Francisco Vigil had been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault and was jailed for one month. The family’s lawsuit alleged that the city ‘did not adequately train staff, didn’t have proper accommodations for hearing impaired inmates, failed to provide a sign language interpreter and did not screen the inmate for mental health concerns.’

Vigil had been housed away from the rest of the prisoners and Paula Greisen, who represented Vigil’s family said “he basically became invisible,” she said. “He sat in the cell and drew a picture of himself crying.”

The Denver Post reports that things have improved in the city since:

City officials say the system has been improved for people with disabilities since Vigil’s incarceration. The downtown detention center was built in 2010 and the county jail was remodeled this year.

New buildings comply with American Disability Act requirements and have technology that includes video phones and “video orientation with sign language” interpretation, said Denver Undersheriff Gary Wilson in an e-mail to The Denver Post.

The new facilities helped alleviate the “severe overcrowding that existed in 2005 and 2007,” Wilson said.

Greisen added: “Vigil had never been in jail before and was isolated in a jail cell with little oversight. He wasn’t able to communicate with anyone and wasn’t even provided a phone call with his family.”

Photo: Ken Mayer
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