Everett Joseph Jewett has been engaged in a fruitless legal attack on the Shasta County jail for a long time. His first federal complaint – printed by hand on a court form – was filed Dec. 18, 2006, in Sacramento.
Acting as his own lawyer, he has struggled with an arcane judicial system in a campaign against the county’s resistance to accommodations for inmates with disabilities.
Like most prisoners who represent themselves, Jewett hit a brick wall made up of his marginal understanding of statutory and case law, the rules of civil procedure and the daunting task of communicating with the court through layers of penal authorities.
Now, the 45-year-old Jewett, who has spent his share of time in the jail, has achieved what could be a significant breakthrough. His 10th federal court complaint was filed May 25 in Sacramento. This time, though, he comes not just with lawyers, but with an impressive team of them.
The new complaint – filed in Jewett’s ongoing second lawsuit – alleges that inmates with disabilities are segregated on 23-hour lockdown, excluded from jail programs and services, and subjected to physical access barriers throughout. The result, it alleges, is a facility that imposes some of the worst conditions on people with mobility disabilities while at the same time excluding them from the most beneficial programs within the jail.
“These conditions have dire mental and physical consequences and are in flagrant violation of the law,” the complaint declares.
It says cells lack assistance devices that allow safe and independent use of toilets, and people with disabilities must surrender canes, crutches and walkers, which are not replaced “for multiple weeks or more.”
Inmates’ pleas for a manageable environment are either routinely denied or are not made because of fear of retribution, the complaint claims. Inmates who file grievances are threatened with an even worse environment, their food is often tainted and inedible, and vital medication is withheld, it claims.
With the May 25 filing, the complaint says, Jewett’s lawsuit now qualifies as a class action on behalf of “all present and future detainees and inmates with mobility disabilities who are or will be housed” in the jail.
In addition to Jewett, representative plaintiffs who are disabled and have allegedly been denied Americans with Disabilities Act-mandated accommodations while in the jail are Glen Harold Everett, Michael Don Ackley and H. Robert Marquette. Their attorneys have brought in nonprofit Legal Services for Prisoners with Children as an additional plaintiff.
Named as defendants are Shasta County and its Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Tom Bosenko, and the California Forensic Medical Group, a private corporation that provides health care services to inmates under a contract with the county.
The complaint seeks a permanent injunction barring the defendants from violating the ADA, the federal Rehabilitation Act and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.
In a prepared statement posted on its website late Thursday, the Sheriff’s Office said the county “has engaged in constructive discussions about disability access with representatives of the disability rights groups who are among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit prior to the filing of the recent complaint. The county will continue to engage in such discussions.
“To the extent the new complaint alleges any retaliatory conduct toward an individual inmate, such as the allegations of denial of medication, or the presentation of tainted or inedible food … the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office completely denies those allegations.”
In 2014 Jewett’s lonely crusade came to the attention of Jon Atabek, who runs a small law firm in Irvine. He funneled the information to nonprofit Disability Rights Legal Center in Los Angeles. One of the nonprofit’s staff attorneys, Kara Janssen, traveled to Redding and inspected the jail.
“I was really shocked,” she said in a telephone interview. “It’s one of the worst situations I’ve ever seen. There is not one cell nor bathroom that is ADA compliant. Inmates are placed in solitary confinement if they won’t give up their canes and walkers.
“The county has known of these issues for a long time,” said Janssen, who was involved in settlements last year of disability-related legal actions targeting jails in Los Angeles and Alameda counties. “There are clear solutions that can be implemented, but they have simply been ignored in Shasta County.”
Seeking a firm with more resources, preferably closer to Redding, the advocacy group turned to Steven Ragland, a partner at Keker & Van Nest, a high-powered San Francisco firm with a wide reputation for its effective presence in high-profile litigation and for work without pay on behalf of worthy causes.
Ragland and another of the firm’s partners, Ajay Krishnan, along with associate Taylor Gooch, have joined forces with Janssen and Atabek.
Jewett, who has a lengthy criminal record and is currently incarcerated at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Medical Facility in Vacaville, suffers from chronic pain and has bulging and herniated disks in his spinal column, degenerative disk disease, spinal stenosis, and muscular neuropathy. His ability to walk is substantially limited, and he uses a cane. A resident of Shasta County when not behind bars somewhere else, Jewett has been detained or incarcerated in the jail multiple times, most recently from April 2013 to December 2014.
In his first court complaint, he alleged that when he told a physician at the jail he could not get off his top bunk because of severe back pain, the doctor grabbed him in a “head lock, and proceeded to try jerking me off the bunk … by my neck alone.” Unable to move, he lay on the floor of a cell at the jail’s clinic, urinated in a jug, and meals were placed next to his head, Jewett alleged. “After 2 days, I was transported to the emergency room.”
While being taken from his cell to the clinic, Jewett remarked that his legs were numb and the doctor said, “Being numb is not a medical condition,” a jail report says. It says, “Jewett became agitated and repeatedly stated ‘You are a f------ retard’ to the doctor.”
A judge tossed out his first lawsuit in 2011. In a second lawsuit, Jewett alleges that he is “consistently housed without regard to my disability.”
In January 2015 he notified the court he had “attained” Atabek as his attorney. In the next 16 months, seven lawyers announced their appearances on behalf of Jewett.
Denny Walsh: 916-321-1189