Lawsuit accuses upstate New York jail of discrimination
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A federal lawsuit filed Monday accuses jail officials in upstate New York of discriminating against a prisoner by putting him in a restrictive housing unit because he is legally blind.
The lawsuit says Tayon Wallace was placed in a restrictive housing unit at the Jamesville Correctional Facility in Onondaga County where he was segregated from the jail’s general population. Wallace was sentenced in early July to serve 12 weekends at the jail.
Earlier this month, a jail official called Wallace’s attorney and said Wallace had been placed in the restricted special housing unit because he is legally blind, according to the lawsuit. It says the jail official added that Wallace was put there for his own safety and staff could keep a closer eye on him.
The jail put Wallace in one of the cells for prisoners with mental health and behavior issues, the documents said. But, according to the suit, Wallace doesn’t have serious behavioral problems or a mental health diagnosis.
“All that Mr. Wallace is asking is to be housed with the general population, and to be given access to the same programs and services that every non-disabled inmate at the jail receives,” said Samuel Young, one of Wallace’s attorneys, in a statement.
Inmates who serve weekend sentences are normally housed in the jail’s general population, where they can spend several hours in an outdoor recreation yard and can play basketball.
Wallace received only one hour of outdoor recreation a day while in restricted housing, the lawsuit states.
A memo issued by the New York State Commission of Correction in May amended regulations to require that segregated inmates with a physical disability should be allowed two hours of exercise per day.
In restrictive housing, Wallace only interacts with inmates who have significant mental health or behavior issues, the suit argues.
“Being around only those prisoners makes him feel uneasy, and he usually shuts down and keeps to himself,” according to the suit.
The lawsuit lists Onondaga County Sheriff Eugene Conway as a defendant, along with William Bleyle, chief custody deputy at the jail.
Messages seeking comment from Conway and Bleyle were not immediately returned.
Ryan Tarinelli is a corps member for Report for America, a nonprofit organization that supports local news coverage in a partnership with The Associated Press for New York. The AP is solely responsible for all content.