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NDRN Statement on Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act

For Immediate Release                
October 6, 2015

Contact:    David Card
202.408.9514 x122

Washington - Last week, Senators Chuck Grassley and Richard Durbin introduced the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) Executive Director Curt Decker issued the following statement:

“The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act has a number of positive implications for individuals with disabilities.

“Individuals with disabilities compose a disproportionate percentage of the jail and prison population nationally, yet their needs often go unmet. Due to the failure of the system to provide needed accommodations and treatment, prisoners with disabilities often experience an additional layer of punishment in the system that prisoners without disabilities avoid. We hope that the reforms proposed here will result in a more humane system that provides the services prisoners need to re-enter their communities successfully upon release.

“Recently, NDRN addressed the needs of youth with disabilities in the juvenile justice system in its report, 'Orphanages, Training Schools, Reform Schools and Now This? Recommendations to Prevent the Disproportionate Placement and Inadequate Treatment of Children with Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice System.' That report found significant treatment and conditions failures in jail and prison settings. In addition, the Network, which consists of the nationwide system of Protection and Advocacy (P&A) agencies for people with disabilities, works extensively with adult prisoners with disabilities, ensuring access to services during imprisonment and in their preparation for release.

“Increased support for anti-recidivism programs and comprehensive risk assessments are useful improvements to the current system. However, they will only improve the programming prisoners with disabilities receive if disability is specifically included in the bill language. The present bill language does not include a specific consideration of disability in its provisions addressing reentry and recovery planning, and post sentencing risk and needs assessment (Sections 202 through 206). Given the unique needs of prisoners with disabilities, and the demographic realities of the nation’s prison population, these additions make sense.

“We are also pleased to see limits on the use of solitary confinement for juveniles. While there are a very few juveniles housed in the federal system, it is important that Congress show leadership in this area.

“Discussion of the compassionate release of elderly prisoners and prisoners with chronic illness is also a timely and appropriate focus for federal leadership. As our prison population ages, prisoners often have medical needs that go unmet, or are met at greater public expense and with poorer quality than they would if the individuals were treated in their own communities.

“NDRN is pleased to see this positive and pro-active conversation about improvements to the corrections system, and encourages amendments to the bill to include specific language about the needs of prisoners with disabilities.”

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The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.

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