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Va. Dept. Of Corrections Settles With Deaf Inmates

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A correctional center in Virginia will become the first major state prison in the country to install a videophone so deaf inmates can communicate with family and friends, as part of a settlement with deaf and hard of hearing inmates.

A group of deaf and hard of hearing inmates at the Powhatan Correctional Center sued Virginia's Department of Corrections in January. It accused the department of discrimination. Now the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs has announced a settlement in the case. The group says that the prison will also provide inmates with interpreters two days a week, sign language interpretation of rules and instructions, and visual notification of meals and events. The committee says this type of communication is critical to the successful rehabilitation of deaf inmates.

The Department of Corrections refused to comment on the case, but a spokesman for the Attorney General says the settlement strikes a fair balance between the needs of deaf prisoners and the needs of the state agency.

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