U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Lonesome Agony: Heard v. The District of Columbia and the Struggle Against Disability Discrimination in the D.C. Penal System

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 47 Issue: 4 Dated: Fall 2010 Pages: 1491-1512
Armen H. Merjian
Date Published
22 pages
This report uses a case study to analyze and report the struggle against disability discrimination in the District of Columbia (DC) penal system.
Findings show the profound hurdles that the disabled face every day for lack of reasonable accommodations even though Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1910 to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Deafness causes prisoners to suffer in myriad additional ways in a setting in which any form of weakness or disability is preyed upon. The ADA requires institutions to make reasonable accommodations of modification to avoid the exclusion, segregation, and burdens to the disabled. This article is an analysis of the case Heard V. The District of Columbia regarding a deaf prisoner with multiple mental disabilities who was erroneously sent to the DC jail, where he remained wrongfully detained for nearly 2 years. During his period of unlawful detention, Mr. Heard was never once provided with an interpreter, an attorney, or a court date. Part 1 of this article introduces the issue; part 2 describes the background of the case; part 3 discusses the details of Mr. Heard's 2 years of unlawful detention; part 4 outlines the court case; and part 5 summarizes and makes suggestions for future reference.