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Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Second Case of Wheelchair Dumping

Mr. Sterner is not the only disabled person to be assaulted by the police at the Orient Road Jail. A second case has come to light. According to John Trevena, Mr. Sterner's lawyer, Benjamin Rayburn, 32, who is paralyzed and currently serving a 10 year prison sentence was also dumped out of his wheelchair (Trevena represents Rayburn). Rayburn was arrested October 3, 2006 on charges of aggravated battery with a firearm and a warrant for grand theft. According to an incident report, Rayburn was verbally abusive and threw a crack pipe at the police officers. Rayburn refused to calm down and Detention Deputy Bret Strohsack wrote he was forced to "relocate Rayburn from his wheelchair to the holding cell floor". A video clearly shows Rayburn being dumped out of his wheelchair. Unlike Sterner, Rayburn broke the law and has a long criminal history. He was arrested for good reason--he shot a man in the back with a .32 caliber handgun (the victim recovered). No one at the jail has any intention offering Rayburn an apology.

The second case must prompt the Florida attorney general's office to broaden their investigation. Regardless of what a disabled person has done wrong, dumping them out of their wheelchair is inexcusable. I would also like the attorney general's office to investigate why it is standard practice to take away a person's personal wheelchair when arrested and replace it with a jail issued wheelchair. This by itself can cause a disabled person to be injured.

Sadly, the emergence of a second so called wheelchair dumping incident is not a surprise. I expect other cases will come to light in Florida and elsewhere. I suspect when disabled people are arrested they are more likely to be abused by police and inmates. The easiest and most effective way to abuse and humiliate a person that uses a wheelchair is to dump them onto the floor. This is clearly not only a physical violation but a human rights violation as well. Guilt is or innocence is not relevant. The sooner this fact is acknowledged the better.


Terri said...

Back a few years ago I knew of a child who was disruptive in class so the school took his voice-output device away. It took a lot of convincing to show the district that when other children are noisy they do indeed face consequences, but no one ever considers taking away their VOICE!

Our culture does indeed need a cultural overhaul when it comes to disability.

I appreciate your insightful writings.

bestonline323 said...

are you being serious? when i was younger i went to a school in CA and i couldnt walk on crutches coz i have hyperflexibility problems and they wouldnt have any kind of transport for me to school and the school refused to offer it so i used to go to school by Wheelchair-Accessible Vehicles like Handicap Vans rides i always feel as an out cast... i really appreciate your blog.