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6/18 #CripTheVote chat: Mass Incarceration, Disability & the Legal System

#CripTheVote Twitter Chat

Mass Incarceration, Disability & the Legal  System

Guest Host: Talila “TL” Lewis, Organizer, Attorney, Professor & Founder of HEARD (Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

3:00-4:00 pm EST

Hosted by Andrew Pulrang, Gregg Beratan, and Alice Wong, #CripTheVote Twitter chats explored various policy issues important to people with disabilities this spring. For our seventh chat, we are delighted to have guest host Talila “TL” Lewis to join us in a conversation about mass incarceration, the legal system, and how they impact people with disabilities. You can find the questions for this chat at the end of this post.

From the American Civil Liberties Union:

America, land of the free, has earned the disturbing distinction of being the world’s leading jailer. Representing just 5 percent of the world’s population, we now hold 25 percent of the world’s inmates. The “tough on crime” politics of the 1980s and 1990s fueled an explosion in incarceration rates.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative:

The American criminal justice system holds more than 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 942 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,283 local jails, and 79 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and prisons in the U.S. territories.

Did you know?

Among incarcerated youth, 85 percent have learning and/or emotional disabilities, yet only 37 percent receive special education in school. Most were either undiagnosed or not properly served in school:

5.8 million people cannot vote because they have a felony on their record?

Info on the The Sentencing Reform & Corrections Act (S.2123)

For some sobering statistics on mass incarceration in the US:

For some additional news and resources on people with disabilities, mass incarceration and the legal system:

The Burden of Mental Illness Behind Bars

Poor People Don’t Stand A Chance In Court

Department of Corrections reaches settlement regarding mentally ill inmates

Partial settlement for disabled inmates suit approved with caveats

Report: Ohio prisons lock too many in solitary confinement

Legislature eliminates legal counsel requirement for disabled adults if parents seek guardianships

Alabama agrees to improve conditions for inmates with disabilities following SPLC lawsuit

Man with Mental Illness in Mississippi jail 11 years without trial

Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (HEARD) #DeafInPrison Fact Sheet

Deaf In Prison Mini-Documentary (captioned)

The Sentencing Project

People with Intellectual Disability in the Criminal Justice System: Victims & Suspects

Mental Health Courts: Serving Justice & Promoting Recovery

The Role of Mental Health Courts in System Reform

A Better Defense For Poor People Accused Of Crimes Is Necessary 

How to Participate

When the chat begins, check out the live-stream: or search #CripTheVote on Twitter for the series of live tweets.

Follow @AndrewPulrang @DisVisibility @GreggBeratan and @talilalewis on Twitter

Use the hashtag #CripTheVote when you tweet

Check out this explanation of how to participate in a chat by Ruti Regan:

Check out this captioned #ASL explanation of how to participate in a chat by @behearddc


Welcome to our 7th chat! Today, please remember to use the #CripTheVote hashtag when you tweet.

If you respond to a question such as Q1, your tweet should follow this format: “A1 [your message] #CripTheVote

This chat will cover how rights of people PwDs are violated by the legal system & individuals within the system. #ADA25 #CripTheVote

Note: #MassIncarceration includes prisons, jails, kid prisons, immigration detention & other facilities that confine/detain #CripTheVote

Also note: I/DD=people w/ intellectual/developmental disabilities. PwD= people w/ disabilities #CripTheVote

#STPP=School to Prison Pipeline, policies & practices that push children out of classrooms & into legal system. #CripTheVote

The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population but has 25% of the world’s prison population:

Incarcerated youth in US: 85% have learning and/or emotional disabilities, only 37% receive #SpecialEd #CripTheVote

QUESTIONS for 6/18/16 #CripTheVote Chat

Q1 How does #ableism impact a disabled person’s interactions w/ the legal system (including with law enforcement & #ReEntry)? #CripTheVote

Q2 What connections exist btwn gender identity/presentation, race, class, disability & entanglement w/ police & legal system? #CripTheVote

The School To Prison Pipeline disproportionately affects disabled youth of color. From @NatCounDis: #CripTheVote

Q3 What are some solutions 4 schools & juvenile legal system that can prevent disabled youth of color from entering STPP?  #CripTheVote

Q4 Many are in jail simply bc they can’t afford bail. Why is criminalization of poverty particularly detrimental to #PwD? #CripTheVote

Q5 #WrongfulConviction of PwDs continue to occur at alarming rates. What barriers to legal counsel exist for #PwD? #CripTheVote

Q6 There are major racial disparities in mass incarceration. How are disabled ppl of color & communities of color affected? #CripTheVote  

Q7 What are major access barriers facing incarcerated PwDs (ex: I/DD, #MentalIllness, #HIV, #AIDS, #DeafInPrison, etc)? #CripTheVote

Q8 How does incarceration, #solitary & inadequate healthcare/services exacerbate or create disability? #DisabilityIncarcerated #CripTheVote

Q9 How are ppl w #MentalIllness or I/DD denied due process when involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution by courts? #CripTheVote

Q10 In addition to decreasing chances of successful #ReEntry, how does housing/job discrimination harm all of our communities? #CripTheVote

Q11 The Sentencing Reform & Corrections Act (S.2123) aims to reduce some mandatory minimums. What’re your thoughts on the bill? #CripTheVote

Q12 What changes would you like to see in the legal system? What should #disability/#CivilRights orgs & advocates be doing? #CripTheVote

This ends our #CripTheVote chat! Many thanks to everyone who participated, especially our guest host @talilalewis. Feel free to continue!


Resources on voting and people with disabilities:

#CripTheVote Facebook Page:

A note on language and why we use the term ‘crip’


#CripTheVote is a nonpartisan campaign to engage both voters and politicians in a productive discussion about disability issues in the United States, with the hope that Disability takes on greater prominence within the American political landscape.

While #CripTheVote is a nonpartisan project, we understand that many people have already developed preferences for particular candidates. This is great–we only ask that everyone is respectful in their interactions with each other. Our primary focus here is on increasing engagement with disability issues as a part of American politics and on the need for that we are all in agreement!
Please note we do not represent the entire disability community nor would we ever claim to do so. There are many ways to create social change and engaging in conversation is one approach.

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