Overcriminalization of People with Disabilities Must Be Addressed in Criminal Justice Reform

Author: Center for American Progress
Published: 2016/07/19 - Updated: 2020/03/17
Peer-Reviewed: N/A
Contents: Summary - Main - Related Publications

Synopsis: Report puts disability issues in perspective within criminal justice reform, highlighting steps to combat inappropriate and unjust incarceration and criminalization of people with disabilities, and ensure appropriate and humane treatment of people with disabilities throughout the justice system. Following a long history of disinvestment in community-based care for mental health and disability, the United States has traded one form of mass institutionalization for another. People behind bars in state and federal prisons are nearly 3 times as likely, and those behind bars in jails are more than 4 times as likely to report having a disability than the general population.

Main Digest

As bipartisan momentum around criminal justice reform continues to grow in Congress and across the United States, at least one group has been largely absent from the conversation, despite being dramatically over-represented in the nation's prisons and jails today: Americans with disabilities.

The Center for American Progress has released a report that puts disability issues in perspective within the current criminal justice reform landscape, highlighting specific steps policymakers can take to combat inappropriate and unjust incarceration and criminalization of people with disabilities, as well as steps to ensure appropriate and humane treatment of people with disabilities throughout the justice system, from police practices to courts, conditions in jails and prisons, and reentry.

Rebecca Vallas, Managing Director of the Poverty to Prosperity program at the Center for American Progress and author of the report, will be discussing this report at a White House Forum focusing on this very topic.

"Following a long history of disinvestment in community-based care for mental health and disability, the United States has traded one form of mass institutionalization for another, with jails and prisons now serving as social service providers of last resort," said Vallas.

"Ending the mass incarceration of people with disabilities will require meaningful investment in the nation's social service and mental health treatment infrastructure to ensure availability and funding for community-based alternatives, so that jails and prisons are no longer forced to serve as social service providers of last resort. But bringing about this change will also require including disability as a key part of the bipartisan conversation on criminal justice reform taking place in Congress, as well as in states and cities across the United States."

This year marks the 17th year since the U.S. Supreme Court declared in Olmstead v. LC that unjustified segregation of people with disabilities in institutional settings is unlawful discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, which celebrates its 26th anniversary on July 25th. Yet while bipartisan momentum around criminal justice reform continues to grow in Washington and in states and cities across the United States - and in the wake of the past week's horrific events and the again-renewed urgency around the need for police reform - the intersection of criminal justice and disability is all too rarely discussed.

Continued below image.
Illustration of three handcuffed prisoners behind prison cell bars.
Illustration of three handcuffed prisoners behind prison cell bars.
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Themes Explored in CAP's New Report

Similar Articles of Interest:

Full report: www.americanprogress.org/issues/criminal-justice/report/2016/07/18/141447/disabled-behind-bars/

Attribution/Source(s):

This quality-reviewed publication pertaining to our Disability Information section was selected for circulation by the editors of Disabled World due to its likely interest to our disability community readers. Though the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or length, the article "Overcriminalization of People with Disabilities Must Be Addressed in Criminal Justice Reform" was originally written by Center for American Progress, and submitted for publishing on 2016/07/19 (Edit Update: 2020/03/17). Should you require further information or clarification, Center for American Progress can be contacted at the americanprogress.org website. Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith.

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Cite This Page (APA): Center for American Progress. (2016, July 19). Overcriminalization of People with Disabilities Must Be Addressed in Criminal Justice Reform. Disabled World. Retrieved February 24, 2024 from www.disabled-world.com/disability/overcriminalization.php

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