Utah settles lawsuit with inmate with disabilities in sex offender program

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The state of Utah will pay a former inmate $60,000 in damages for failing to accommodate him in a sex offender treatment program, extending his period of incarceration for years.

In 1996, a jury sentenced Richard Ramirez to five years to life in prison for a first-degree felony sex offense. To be released, Ramirez, who has an IQ measurement as low as 68, was required to complete a sex offender treatment program.

Due to intellectual disabilities, Ramirez has difficulty reading and writing, and thus was unable to complete his workplace assignments in the program’s group therapy programs. He remained incarcerated for 16 years.

Ramirez filed a lawsuit in 2011 against the Utah Department of Corrections, alleging that his treatment under the program violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause.

“The case was dormant until we were appointed. When it became clear this lawsuit wasn’t going away as most of them do, Richard was paroled to a halfway house where he received the individual help and therapy he needed,” Salt Lake attorney Brent Manning, who was appointed by a federal judge in 2013 to represent Ramirez, told KSL.

Ramirez finally was set free in 2014.

With the settlement, Ramirez has agreed to drop his lawsuit. However, the Utah Disability Law Center, which assisted with Ramirez’s representation, said the issue is much large than just this individual case.

Specifically, the Disability Law Center reportedly received a letter from another inmate recently, saying that more than 20 other inmates “are having very similar experiences as Mr. Ramirez not being able to completely program because of their disabilities.”

“We hope we can use your story and your courageous battle to get out to educate the public and create that systemwide relief because there are people who are suffering,” DLC Staff Attorney told KSL, addressing Ramirez.

The Utah Disability Law Center and Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of Rooted in Rights, are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Utah and Washington, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.