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Alton v. Maryland Dept. of Public Safety

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 14, 2016

WILLIAM E. ALTON, III Plaintiff
v.
MARYLAND DEPT. OF PUBLIC SAFETY, et al. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          William M. Nickerson Senior United States District Judge.

         On March 10, 2016, this Court issued a Memorandum and Order in the above-captioned civil rights case directing Defendants to respond to the claim that Plaintiff was denied access to certain programs in violation of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). ECF 28 and 29. Defendants filed the required Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment[1] (ECF 33) and Plaintiff has filed his opposition to the motion (ECF 34 and 35). No hearing is deemed necessary for the disposition of the matters pending. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016).

         Background

         In its prior decision, this Court observed that:

Defendants do not dispute, and the records submitted support the fact, that Alton suffers from Brown Sequard syndrome, requiring him to walk with crutches and wear braces on his legs. In addition, there is acknowledgment that Alton required accommodations for his disability such as assignment to a lower bunk and assistance with walking long distances or negotiating stairs. The medical record also supports a finding that Alton suffers a chronic pain condition emanating from spinal disc disorders. See generally ECF 20 at Ex.
11. Alton is a disabled person entitled to the protections provided under the ADA.
Title II of the ADA also applies to Alton's participation in the [Addictions Treatment Protocol (ATP)], work release, and any diminution of confinement credits he may have been entitled to by virtue of his participation.
It is undisputed that Alton could not participate in a program [Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS)] designated as "mandatory" at a facility that was also a pre-release prison. What remains unclear, because Defendants have not addressed it, is whether Alton was denied the opportunity to participate in yet another program, work release, because of his disability and whether Alton was then denied the benefit of earning additional diminution of confinement credits because of his disability. Defendants have only addressed Alton's claim under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act in terms of the medical care he received. A fair reading of the Complaint does not lead this Court to the conclusion that he was raising that claim.
Moreover, the mere fact that Alton was not constitutionally entitled to participate in prison programs or to earn the benefits derived therefrom, i.e., diminution of confinement credits, is not dispositive of his claim under Title II of the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act. Alton has alleged that DPSCS receives federal funding for its ATP program, bringing participation in that program within the ambit of the Rehabilitation Act's protection.
Under 29 U.S.C. §794(b) a "program or activity" from which a disabled person may not be excluded solely on the basis of that disability is defined as follows:
[A] II of the operations of-
(1)(A) a department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a State or of a local government; or
(B) the entity of such State or local government that distributes such assistance and each such department or agency (and each other State or local government entity) to which the assistance is extended, in the case of assistance to a State or local government. .. any part of which is extended Federal financial assistance.
Id. (emphasis supplied). Thus, the DPSCS is subject to the proscriptions of the Rehabilitation Act if there is evidence the department receives federal financial assistance. While Alton has not produced any evidence that the Maryland DPSCS receives federal funding for the ATP, Defendants have offered nothing to refute that allegation and the record is currently devoid of evidence upon which this Court may rely to determine if the Rehabilitation Act even applies to Alton's claim regarding the ATP. The record does not, however, support a conclusion that Alton was excluded from participation in the ATP solely because of his disability. Alton participated in the ATP; albeit his participation was delayed by efforts to locate him in a prison where it was offered and in which he could be accommodated for his disability. What remains unclear, however, is whether Alton was excluded from participation in work release solely because of his disability and thereby ...

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