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NEWARK -- Teenagers sent to state prison in New Jersey are routinely stripped of their federal rights to special education services and sometimes left in solitary confinement with little regard for their disabilities, a new class action lawsuit contends. ...

N.J. sued over 'shocking' lack of special education for inmates

NEWARK -- Teenagers sent to state prison in New Jersey are routinely stripped of their federal rights to special education services and sometimes left in solitary confinement with little regard for their disabilities, a new class action lawsuit contends. ...

N.J. sued over 'shocking' lack of special education for inmates

NEWARK -- Teenagers sent to state prison in New Jersey are routinely stripped of their federal rights to special education services and sometimes left in solitary confinement with little regard for their disabilities, a new class action lawsuit contends. 

Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ), represented by the law firm Proskauer Rose LLP, announced Wednesday they are suing the state Department of Corrections and state Department of Education in federal court for allegedly failing to provide education throughout the prison system.

Some inmates with special education needs receive no education, while others are asked to complete worksheets while sitting in a cage, the suit alleges.  

"Whether in a cage or a classroom, NJDOC has failed and continues to fail youth with disabilities, utterly ignoring a key component of rehabilitation: a meaningful education," said Mary-Lee Smith, director of litigation at Disability Rights Advocates. "Youth with disabilities do not check their civil rights at the door of adult prison facilities."

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Teens with disabilities who are incarcerated in adult prisons are entitled to special education through the age of 21, according to federal and state law, the lawsuit says. New Jersey's Department of Corrections, however, ignores that obligation, the suit claims. 

The state Department of Education has failed to monitor the Department of Corrections, according to the lawsuit. 

Both departments declined to comment on the lawsuit.  

The suit is filed on behalf of three men who entered the prison system at age 18 or 19 and are identified only by their first name and first initial of their last name. 

One man, who has ADHD and entered the prison system when he was 18, has spent more than 150 days in solitary confinement and received no special education services, the suit says. The Department of Corrections has not investigated whether his ADHD could become worse by being in solitary confinement, according to the lawsuit. 

Another man, also 18 when he arrived, been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, impulse control disorder and ADHD. He at first received no special education services while in solitary confinement but now receives worksheets to complete in a cage in the middle of the unit at the Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility in Chesterfield, the suit says. 

The third plaintiff, who was 19 when he was incarcerated, needed special education assistance in school but has received no such services since entering Department of Corrections custody, the suit claims. 

The lawsuit estimates that hundreds of incarcerated students are being denied their rights to special education. 

Adam Clark may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClark. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

 

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