ADA Enforcement in Criminal Justice Settings
Sign Up for E-mail Updates
Receive notifications by E-mail when new information is available
Department of Justice settlement agreements provide examples of policies and procedures that help achieve ADA compliance in the following key areas of the criminal justice system:
Crisis Response: Through settlement agreements with the Department, police departments in Portland and Seattle trained additional officers to serve on Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT). Also, all officers in these jurisdictions now receive basic training on effectively interacting with people with mental health disabilities and on crisis de-escalation. The New Orleans Police Department and the Portland Police Bureau developed CIT policies that encourage de-escalation, diversion, and coordination with the local mental health agency. Portland also developed a comprehensive Behavioral Health Unit that includes multiple co-responder teams that pair a specially trained police officer with a mental health professional to divert frequent users of police services based on their mental health needs.
Use of Force: Agencies have revised use-of-force policies and training after the Department found a pattern of unreasonable use of force, including on people with mental health disabilities. For example, Seattle revised its use-of-force training curriculum and policy to emphasize conducting threat assessments, determining whether behaviors are disability-related, using CIT whenever feasible, and using de-escalation techniques such as time, distance, and shielding.
Diversion and Coordination with Mental Health Providers: A settlement agreement in Portland led to the creation of a crisis center available to first responders seeking to divert individuals with disabilities from the criminal justice system into the community mental health system. Portland and New Orleans have implemented policies to transport these individuals to treatment by ambulance or civilian services in lieu of police vehicles. Similarly, police departments across Delaware can now refer people in mental health crisis to community-based Crisis Intervention Services. Delaware created these alternatives to meet their responsibility under the ADA under a settlement agreement with the Department.
In a settlement agreement with Hinds County, Mississippi regarding its jail, the Department and County agreed to “work toward the goal of population reduction in a manner that preserves public safety, prioritizes diversion for unnecessary criminal justice involvement, and reduces recidivism,” particularly for individuals with mental health disabilities. Hinds County agreed to establish a criminal justice coordinating committee to enhance coordination between criminal justice and mental health agencies to prevent unnecessary arrest and detention and connect individuals with disabilities to mental health services. Agreements in both Delaware and New Hampshire target community-based mental health services at individuals with mental illness who have histories of involvement in the criminal justice system to prevent recidivism.
A settlement in Tennessee led to statewide training of law enforcement officers on interacting with people with I/DD.
Release Planning: The settlement agreement with Hinds County, Mississippi requires the jail to notify community mental health providers when releasing a prisoner with serious mental illness so the prisoner can transition safely to the community. To aid in transition, the jail will provide prisoners with details related to a follow up appointment at the relevant mental health center and give them sufficient medications to cover the period until the scheduled appointment.
Restrictive Housing (Solitary Confinement): In a settlement, Ohio agreed to reduce its reliance on seclusion for juveniles on the mental health caseload at its secure juvenile facilities by limiting the bases for placing juveniles in seclusion and reducing the time period any juvenile spends in seclusion. In less than 18 months, Ohio eventually eliminated the use of disciplinary seclusion at its juvenile facilities. Similarly, in response to Department of Justice findings, Pennsylvania revised its policies to divert prisoners with serious mental health or developmental disabilities from solitary confinement and into treatment units.
Disciplinary Proceedings: The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections modified its policies and procedures to require that prisoners with serious mental health or developmental disabilities be evaluated by mental health staff to consider mitigated sanctions if they are subject to serious misconduct sanctions and to resolve allegations of non-violent offenses informally. In addition, the policies no longer permit discipline for self-injurious behavior.
DOJ Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
DOJ’s Report and Recommendations Concerning the Use of Restrictive Housing
DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance: Mental Health
DOJ and ED's Dear Colleague Letter on the Civil Rights of Students in Juvenile Justice Residential Facilities
SAMHSA’s GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation
SAMHSA’s National Center for Trauma-Informed Care and Alternatives to Seclusion and Restraint
Data-Driven Justice Initiative