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.
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.”