People with mental and physical disabilities are dramatically overrepresented in U.S. jails and prisons, according to a report released Monday by the Center for American Progress.
According to the report, “Disabled Behind Bars,” 31 percent of those in prisons and nearly 40 percent of those in jails report having at least one disability. Fully half of women in jails have at least one reported disability.
Compared to the general population, people behind bars in state and federal prisons and jails are three and four times as likely to have at least one disability, respectively. Down syndrome, autism, dementia, intellectual disabilities, and learning disorders are among the most commonly reported disabilities, according to the report.
Once behind bars, people with disabilities can find themselves placed in solitary for lack of appropriate accommodations, despite federal disability laws that mandate equal access to all services and activities for those in custody with disabilities. They’re more likely to be abused by guards, have their treatment and medication regime disrupted, and have a harder time overcoming the considerable obstacles a criminal record puts on finding steady work and housing, the report says.