The Denver Post reports that the city of Denver will consider paying almost $700,000 to settle a federal lawsuit brought 5 years ago by the family of a deaf jail inmate who died soon after attempting suicide while in custody.
Twenty-three year old Shawn Vigil was jailed on second degree sexual assault charges in August 2005 before hanging himself the following month. The lawsuit was filed by his mother, Debbie Ulibarri, in 2007. The lawsuit claimed that Denver’s jail system failed to make proper accommodations for a deaf inmate or to train their staff adequately, putting deaf inmates at risk for suicide.
Vigil, who was deaf from birth and communicated mostly through sign language, was placed in a special unit away from the general population, but attorneys say he was never provided a sign-language interpreter and was never monitored for mental illness.
The lawsuit claims an intake officer gave Vigil a form to fill out that was beyond Vigil’s comprehension level, and that Vigil had asked to meet with the jail’s administrative review board, but was never taken before the board. It also claimed that there was never any documented rounds that are required by deputies twice an hour.
The lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial, but the city of Denver has agreed to settle with the lawyers representing the family. There has been no comment by the attorney’s on either side.