Disability Groups Call for Release of Prisoners with Disabilities Vulnerable to COVID-19

April 6, 2020
Disability Groups Call for Release of Prisoners with Disabilities Vulnerable to COVID-19

For Immediate Release
04/06/2020

Contact: David Card
202.408.9514 x122
[email protected]

WASHINGTON, DC – During the current health crisis, social distancing is practically impossible in our massively overcrowded jails, prisons and detention facilities. In efforts to reduce crowding and limit contagion, some states have begun to order the release of non-violent people held pretrial, people nearing the end of their sentences, those serving time for nonviolent offenses and prisoners older than 60 and others who are medically vulnerable.

State-based Protection and Advocacy (P&A) agencies, which make up the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), are monitoring correctional facilities where youth and adults with disabilities are held. In some states, like Utah, North Carolina, Montana, and others, P&As have partnered with advocacy organizations to file lawsuits and engage in additional advocacy efforts to ensure that people with disabilities are included in these release orders.

Many adults and juveniles with disabilities in jails, prisons and detention facilities are poor and homeless, and some need community-based services after release from incarceration. Many have multiple medical conditions, are among the most vulnerable to infection with COVID-19 while incarcerated and should be released. Unfortunately, some jurisdictions are prioritizing the release of people who do not need help with finding safe housing or who do not need community supports.

NDRN calls on state and local officials to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind in crowded and unsanitary conditions in our nation’s jails and prisons while others are being released. Federal and state laws require nondiscrimination in such decision-making, and NDRN calls on local officials to comply with the law. No one who can be released should remain incarcerated simply because they have a disability.

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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.