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Disability Advocates Oppose Attorney General Sessions’ Mandatory Minimums Directive

For Immediate Release
5/16/2017                        

Contact: David Card
202.408.9514 x122
press@ndrn.org

WASHINGTON – NDRN Executive Director Curtis Decker made the following statement in response to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ directive to federal prosecutors to charge nonviolent, low-level drug offenders with long, mandatory-minimum sentences:

“Due to the failure to accommodate people with disabilities in all aspects of the criminal justice system, from first contact through arrest, trial, imprisonment and re-entry into the community, people with disabilities are already disproportionately represented in the U.S. prison system. In fact, our nation’s prisons often serve as de facto hospitals for people who are not provided appropriate community based services. Our prisons are filled with individuals with disabilities of all kinds, including a high percentage of individuals with intellectual and significant physical and sensory disabilities.

“We should be working to prevent people with disabilities from being swept up into a system that is ill suited to meet their needs, not increasing the size of the prison gate. States have worked well in recent years to reduce mass incarceration of people with disabilities, but this new Directive will reverse years of that work.

“One of the most important duties of a prosecutor is to consider the culpability of the accused and suitability of that individual for imprisonment. Removing that discretion when the accused is a person with a disability is a significant step in the wrong direction, one that will result in harm to the accused, their families, and to taxpayers who will be required to fund additional prison beds for individuals who will not benefit from incarceration. 

“This Directive must be reversed. Public safety will not be improved by placing more people with disabilities in prison.”