For Immediate Release
Contact: David Card
WASHINGTON, DC – Across the country, advocates for people with disabilities have responded to the exploding COVID-19 crisis in U.S. jails, prisons and detention centers by seeking reductions in prison and jail populations, stepped up infection control procedures and greater access to medical care in these facilities. Protection and Advocacy (P&A) agencies have taken a leading role in this work.
Often working in collaboration with public defenders, legal aid organizations, and local ACLU and NAACP affiliates, P&As have led advocacy efforts and sometimes initiated emergency legal filings to address the ongoing crisis. These actions, along with stepped up P&A monitoring of prison and jail conditions, have led to greater public and judicial scrutiny of the conditions of incarceration and of the needs of the most medically vulnerable people to be protected from infection and preventable illness. Many facilities have expanded COVID-19 testing, implemented quarantine procedures, eliminated medical co-pays to expand access to medical care, improved sanitary protections, and developed improved medical screening and treatment practices. Several jurisdictions have released prisoners and detainees in efforts to reduce crowded conditions and the spread of infection.
“P&A efforts have been successful in achieving modest reductions in prison and jail populations as well as the implementation of improved infection control and testing protocols in these facilities,” said NDRN Executive Director Curt Decker. “While progress has been slow and uneven, the work of P&As has been crucial in efforts to protect the lives of vulnerable prisoners and detainees, in particular those with mental and physical 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 P&A/CAP Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.