Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Inmate sues over
sign language

A hearing-impaired woman says
the state provided no interpreter

By Debra Barayuga

A disabled inmate at the Women's Community Correctional Center has filed suit against the Department of Public Safety and Hawaii Paroling Authority alleging she was denied equal access to facilities and services.

Charing Bernard, who is hearing impaired, filed the class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court yesterday, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Bernard has been unable to participate in educational, rehabilitative, and religious activities and services because the state has denied her the services of a qualified interpreter, said Stan Levin, one of two attorneys representing her.

Because of her impairment, Bernard can communicate only with the use of an American Sign Language interpreter.

She was paroled in March 2001 but could not participate in mandatory meetings with her parole officer because no interpreter was provided.

Because she didn't attend the meetings, her parole was revoked at a hearing in October 2001 and she was returned to prison. She is currently serving an eight-year sentence.

Bernard and an advocate have been trying for more than six months to get the state to provide a qualified interpreter. But because of the state's inaction, they decided to file suit, Levin said.

Public Safety and Paroling Authority officials could not be reached for comment.

E-mail to City Desk


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