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Prisoner denied two hearing aids, ACLU lawsuit says

The ACLU of Ohio filed a federal lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction over the state's refusal to issue two hearing aids to an inmate who is hard-of-hearing. Ohio DRC officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

The suit alleges that the state policy of providing only one hearing aid, even for prisoners who have a medical need for two, is unconstitutional and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Using a one-size-fits-all policy that arbitrarily denies needed medical care to individuals in state custody is in clear violation of the ADA,” said Freda Levenson, legal director of the ACLU of Ohio, in a written release. “Federal law requires that prisons care for individuals’ medical needs on a case-by-case basis, and the state has a responsibility to ensure that all people housed in prisons are treated humanely.”

Inmate James Handwork is serving a 15-year sentence for murder at Lake Erie Correctional Institution, a privately owned and operated prison that houses state prisoners. His two hearing aids are outdated, the suit says.

Inmate James Handwork

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In late 2011, Ohio became the first state in the country to sell a government-owned prison to a private company. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio opposes privatization of incarceration duties.

Corrections Corporation of America, which bought the Conneaut facility for $72.7 million, has a state contract to house and provide medical care for Ohio inmates.

Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Conneaut is owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America, which has a state contract to house Ohio inmates.

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