ACLU-DE Legal Team Improves Immigrants’ Rights, Prison Conditions

The legal program has been hard at work this year, standing up for the freedoms of all Delawareans. Below are highlights from our work since January to improve prison conditions, prevent discrimination against registered sex offenders, and ensure the rights of immigrants. More information is available here about our efforts to uphold and expand first amendment rights and freedom of information about state and local government policies and procedures.

Prison Conditions

In September of 2011, the Department of Corrections agreed to a federal court order requiring it to make substantial changes in the operation of the women’s prison to make rape and other sexual abuses of inmates less likely. The order was the result of a law suit ACLU-DE brought on behalf of a woman raped in Baylor Prison. The state failed to comply with many of the requirements of the order within the required one year timeframe, prompting us to agree to several extensions. When the state did not meet the new deadlines it had requested, ACLU-DE filed a motion seeking to compel compliance. The state made some progress in the five months the motion has been pending before the court, but much remains to be done. In response to our motion and the state’s contention that it is in compliance, the judge referred the case to a federal magistrate to determine the facts and recommend next steps.

Immigrants’ Rights

Credit: The Boston Globe

Limited English Proficiency (“LEP”) Compliance by State Police – Working with ACLU-DE, the State Police have adopted and implemented policies and procedures that will enable its officers to deal appropriately with people who do not speak English. Some of the changes include: In-service trainings, new interpretation service providers, translating vital documents into Spanish and posting appropriate signage in the Troop buildings.

Delaware Unemployment Insurance LEP Compliance –Three Nepalese refugees who were denied Delaware unemployment compensation benefits because they could not communicate in English have received full benefits. ACLU-DE is drafting procedural changes to prevent similar problems from reoccurring, and the Delaware Department of Labor’s attorney has endorsed our suggestion that the DDOL request that the federal government change a required form that contributed to the refugees’ problem.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits – Agreeing with the position argued by ACLU-DE in a friend of the court brief, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled that federal immigration law does not disqualify undocumented immigrants from receiving workers’ compensation benefits for work injuries.

Registered Sex Offenders

ACLU-DE’s lawsuit challenging the residency restriction adopted by the City of Dover, which is even more onerous and counterproductive than the state’s residency restriction, prompted Dover to revise the ordinance to reduce its applicability. In the case of Justice v. City of Dover, Dover’s attorney has advised the court that the city is amending the ordinance by adding a grandfather clause so that the ordinance will not require people to move from homes where they were living on the date the ordinance was enacted.

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