Portland One-Legged Homeless Man Discharged From Jail Without Wheelchair

Miscommunication blamed for man having to scoot home using hands.

May 25, 2011 — -- Jail workers in Portland, Ore., discharged a one-legged homeless man without his wheelchair Monday morning after a citation for consuming alcohol in public.

The security officers apparently watched as Scott Hamilton, 37, used his hands to scoot out of the jail on his butt and head out into the dark street about 1 a.m.

Hamilton then made his way to a convenience store about three blocks away where girlfriend Eve Browne picked him up, she said.

"It was just over the top, beyond being disrespectful or inconsiderate. It was just negligence," Browne said of the treatment Hamilton received from the Multnomah County Detention Center.

Hamilton has rheumatoid arthritis, and his hands were swollen and purple after making the trek, Browne said.

Officials have since returned the wheelchair to Hamilton.

Portland police arrested Hamilton Sunday night. He was given a receipt for his belongings, including the wheelchair, when he was booked into jail.

Hamilton has battled alcoholism since his early 20s, according to his father, Frank Hamilton, and lost his leg in a motorcycle accident. Police said he has been arrested at least 10 times since January.

His personal wheelchair is usually held at the jail and Hamilton is given a loaner. But Hamilton's personal wheelchair was taken away this time to an off-site storage facility.

When it came time for discharge, his wheelchair was unavailable. When the loaner chair was taken away from him, Hamilton became angry. He stormed out of the jail on his hands, as a security officer held the door open for him.

"This was kind of a miscommunication," chief deputy of corrections Michael Shults said. Shults, who works for the sheriff's office, added that policies and training practices will likely change to ensure this doesn't happen again.

"We want people to be able to get home safely," he said.

Today, Hamilton -- who could not be reached for comment -- is back on the streets panhandling, but still without his wheelchair. Shults is working to return the wheelchair to Hamilton and an investigation of the incident has been launched.

"We don't want this to ever happen again," Mary Lindstrand, public information officer for the sheriff's office, said.

Lindstrand said the poor treatment of Hamilton has overshadowed all the positive things the sheriff's office does. That will be particularly noticeable tonight when the sheriff's office is scheduled to give out 31 awards during its annual awards ceremony.

Neil Donovan, the executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said that incidents such as Hamilton's are all too common.

A Washington, D.C., homeless man was forced out of his wheelchair and tackled by police Sunday as they arrested him. Video capturing the event shows police rough-handling the man, who has blood spewing from his head from the fall.

Donovan said that while law enforcement officials certainly have a role in situations such as these, the problem is rooted much deeper and stems from policies aimed at getting homeless people off the streets rather than solving the cause of the homeless problem.

Donovan said that even after 31 years in the business, these events are still tough to accept.

"I feel a real sense of sadness for the individual who had to be humiliated and had their civil rights taken away," he said. "Injustice seems to never grow old or allow you to become accustomed to it."