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Wells Fargo Bank Building
400 East Broadway
Suite 409
Bismarck, ND 58501-4071

701.328.2950 · Phone
701.328.3934 · Fax
800.472.2670 · Toll Free
711 · TDD Relay
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North Dakota Protection & Advocacy Project

Current Priorities & Resources: Agency Priorities: Criminal Justice

Statistics show that a disproportionate number of people disabilities are coming into contact with the correctional system. It is estimated that as many as 25 - 50 percent of prisoners have a mental illness or other type of disability. Lack of adequate community mental health treatment and other public services often play a role in this disturbing trend.

From arrest through every phase of the criminal justice system, persons with disabilities encounter a system not designed to handle the needs of persons with disabilities. People with disabilities being arrested and booked in jails may not be identified as needing treatment or accommodations. Those with cognitive impairments or mental illnesses may be more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse from other inmates. They may find themselves isolated or segregated for their protection, without access to the same rights and privileges as other prisoners. It is particularly difficult for those with mental illnesses to receive adequate treatment-both because the criminal justice system lacks the capacity to deliver comprehensive mental health services and because punitive jail settings are the antithesis of a therapeutic environment. Prisoners with physical disabilities may find their access to services and activities limited due to the inaccessibility of the environment. All of these difficulties inhibit effective rehabilitation and successful return to the community.

P&A assists individuals involved with the criminal justice system who are having difficulty obtaining disability-related services, accommodations, or assistive technology. P&A works collaboratively with the Department of Corrections, county and local correctional facilities, and community service providers to ensure access to services, devices, and/or resources. P&A also represents inmates involved in forced-medication administrative hearings. P&A does not provide representation for criminal charges.

P&A is engaged in a statewide collaborative effort with key agencies to implement an effective Individual Justice Planning protocol and has trained partners in the legal profession, court system, correctional system, and service provider system in its use. Recognizing that individual justice planning can be an effective tool to prevent unnecessary and ineffective incarceration, P&A assists eligible individuals with disabilities to access this type of planning.

For the five years ending in 2007, P&A was a partner in the Disability Justice Initiative (DJI) (148kb pdf). Partnering with the State Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Minot State University, the DJI was launched to improve interaction between North Dakota's criminal justice system and citizens with disabilities.

Resources

Commonly Asked Questions about the Americans With Disabilities Act and Law Enforcement
From the U.S. Department of Justice/Civil Rights Division/Disability Rights Section.

Communicating with People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
An ADA Guide for Law Enforcement Officers by the U.S. Department of Justice/Civil Rights Division/Disability Rights Section.

Ill-Equipped: U.S. Prisons and Offenders with Mental Illness
From the Human Rights Watch; an independent, nongovernmental organization.

Individual Justice Plan Manual (875kb pdf)
A manual describing the Individual Justice Planning process (the printed version of the manual is slightly different than our web version. Changes were made to some of the formatting in order to create an accessible Adobe Acrobat pdf).

Model Policy for Law Enforcement on Communicating with People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
From the U.S. Department of Justice/Civil Rights Division; January 2006.

Police Response to People with Disabilities (video)
An eight-part series from the U.S. Department of Justice/Civil Rights Division/Disability Rights Section.

Policy Statement on Criminal Justice
A position statement from the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and The Arc.

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