CLEVELAND, OHIO — As part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), following a lawsuit brought by a hearing impaired inmate, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction will clarify its policy on issuing hearing aids to prisoners. James Handwork, serving a murder sentence at the Lake Erie Correctional Institution, filed a lawsuit in 2016 because prison officials would only give him a single aid as a replacement for two broken ones.
According to the suit, prison staff told Handwork that the department’s policy only requires them to ensure an inmate can hear from one ear.
The ACLU of Ohio said the corrections department was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and Handwork’s Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment in refusing to give him two functioning hearing aids.
Corrections Dept to Clarify Hearing Aid Policy
According to the settlement, the corrections department will clarify its policies regarding hearing aids. The updated policy will state that prisoners who are eligible to receive hearing aids or need them replaced are not limited to one hearing aid, if a doctor says two are needed.
In addition to updating its hearing aid policy, the department of corrections has also agreed to pay the ACLU $22,000 for attorney’s fees and costs.
“Nobody in his position in an Ohio prison should have to endure the same thing he did” —Elizabeth Bonham, ACLU Staff Attorney
Handwork received two working hearing aids in April of this year, while his attorney and the department of corrections worked out a settlement.