[Note: A comprehensive list of resources by "issue area" is available for staff of all P&A Agencies by clicking on the "TASC" link on the home page of this website, and then selecting "Issue Areas" from the list along the left margin.]
Increasingly, large numbers of persons with mental illness, cognitive disabilities and/or physical disabilities are coming into contact with the adult correctional system. It is estimated that as many as 50 percent of prisoners have a mental illness or other type of disability. Jails and prisons have become the "new asylums" -- a costly response to mental health care.
From arrest through every phase of the criminal justice system, persons with disabilities encounter a system not designed to handle large numbers of persons with disabilities. Lack of access to community mental health treatment and other public services often results in people with disabilities being arrested and booked in jails where adequate treatment is unlikely. When competency is an issue, delays in transporting such individuals for treatment are commonplace. Those who are convicted and confined in penal facilities tend to serve longer sentences than others convicted of similar crimes, and prison conditions are harsher due to their disabilities.
Persons with disabilities often encounter an absence of justice in a system not designed to handle a large number of persons with disabilities. P&A systems are actively involved in advocacy on behalf of these individuals to protect their rights. NDRN staff maintains a Criminal Justice listserv, and provides training and technical assistance, to facilitate sharing of information relating to the full range of advocacy, legal and policy issues affecting persons with disabilities vulnerable to becoming involved in the criminal justice system, including:
Arrested? What Happens to your Benefits if You Go to Jail or Prison? (Bazelon March 2004)
The Prisoners' Assistance Directory, (ACLU 2005) [contact information and services descriptions for over 300 national, state, local and international organizations that provide assistance to prisoners, ex-offenders and families of prisoners]
HIRE -- Helping individuals with criminal records Re-enter through Employment Network is a national clearing-house for information and an advocate for policy change. Its goal is to increase the number and quality of job opportunities available to people with criminal records by changing public policies, employment practices and public opinion. HIRE is examining the employment needs of ex-offenders with mental illness and co-occurring disorders.
The New Asylums, Frontline (May 2005)
Prison Suicide: An Overview and Guide to Prevention (Mansfield, MA, Nat. Center for Institutions and Alternatives, 1995)
Mental Disabilities and the Death Penalty