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Oregon sued for charging inmates for medical devices

April 23, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A class action lawsuit has been filed claiming the Oregon Department of Corrections is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act because it charges prisoners with disabilities for prosthetics and other medical devices they need.

The suit was filed this week in federal court by Portland attorney Lynn Walsh and nonprofit legal organization Disability Rights Advocates, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

The litigation aims to prevent the practice of charging people with disabilities in prison for health care appliances and durable medical equipment. In addition to preventing the practice in the future, the plaintiffs want the state to reimburse people.

The lead plaintiff, Donald Terrill, is imprisoned at the Snake River Correctional Institution in eastern Oregon, and was fitted with a prosthesis after a lower leg amputation eight years ago.

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Since 2013, the Oregon Department of Corrections has garnished Terrill’s trust account. He’s paid more than $10,000 toward his own prosthetic leg and still owes another $14,000. He makes $45 per month working in prison.

“Because I am being charged for my prosthesis, I cannot buy much beyond toothpaste and deodorant, or save up for shoes,” Terrill said in a statement.

The Oregon Department of Corrections acknowledged adults in custody (AICs) are “generally required” to buy their own medical equipment “like hearing aids and prosthetics.”

“When AICs are released from custody, these items leave with the AIC because the equipment is not Department of Corrections property, but personal property,” Corrections spokeswoman Jennifer Black said. Medical items such as canes are supplied by Corrections and can be returned and used again, she said.

Terrill requires the prosthetic limb to get around the Snake River prison, according to the lawsuit. Without it, he said, he wouldn’t have access to the same programs and services in prison as inmates who are not disabled.