Elliott “Bud” Yorke, who is incarcerated at Florida’s Columbia Correctional Institution Annex at Lake City, was sent to solitary confinement on June 24. According to prison officials, he was placed in isolation for his own protection after corrections officers observed injuries suggesting that he had been assaulted. Aside from being two months shy of his 90th birthday, Yorke is deaf and non-verbal, communicating primarily through writing. He uses a wheeled walker to move around.
“Apparently this confinement system is not concerned with impaired and elderly,” Yorke wrote in a July 1 letter to a friend. He continued:
There are no grab and hold bars on wall to help me up and down on toilet. They won’t let my walker stay in my cell to help, tho I am solo occupant in this cell while I’m in this present hell place…
At 13’10 hrs. on June 25, 2014 the confinement guard has taken my walker wheels. He rode it out like a “scooter” with one knee on the seat. It was parked outside my cell. It has my jar of topical allergy skin salve under seat and I can’t walk without a walker!! I need these. I wrote a note of need to guard and he wrote on back of note” “Make your bed- that is what you need!” At 16’35 hrs I got jar and nasty note “F— you!…
My stationery, envelopes, stamps, pens, address records, and crotch supporters for sanitary male napkins have been put in storage and I have no access!!! Diapers, [to] which I am historically allergic, have been issued under door ground gap.
Yorke, who has served close to 30 years in Florida for a sex offense, has requested to be sent to a prison that teaches American Sign Language. He is able to hear some things with the help of a tinnitus masker, but has been denied that as well.
According to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, prisons receiving federal funding must supply an effective communications system for the deaf, while the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifically requires state and local agencies to make sure a disabled person is not limited in terms of communication. In the past, courts have found prisons that do not provide disabled inmates physical accommodations like handrails and shower chairs to be in violation of the ADA, according to A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual.
On Monday, Columbia Annex Warden Munroe Barnes told Solitary Watch that he had made sure to correct the majority of Yorke’s complaints, although a walker was still not permitted in keeping with standard procedure in solitary “in case it can be made into weapon.” The tinnitus masking instrument is also not allowed in solitary cells, Barnes said, because inmates are supplied with mp3 devices that have the same capabilities.
Yorke has been approved for transfer to a facility “commensurate with his age and disability status,” according to Barnes, but the process takes time due to limited availability throughout the state prison system. In the meantime, Yorke remains in solitary indefinitely.