AVID Jail Project

The Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities (AVID) jail project of Disability Rights Washington (DRW) focuses on improving conditions, treatment, and services for people with mental illness in jails within King County.

Mission

Since early 2015 the project has used DRW's federally-mandated access authority to monitor, investigate, and engage in individual and systemic advocacy in order to achieve sustainable reform to the treatment of inmates with mental illness at King County Jail, and South Correctional Entity (SCORE).

Specifically, the AVID Jail Project:

  • Conducts regular monitoring and outreach visits to King County Jail and SCORE in order to identify and document the most important issues affecting individuals with mental illness incarcerated at these jails. As of August 2015, the AVID Jail Project had visited these jails over sixty times.

  • Provides technical assistance in self-advocacy to inmates and their families to help them advocate for themselves on mental health-related issues at King County Jail and SCORE. As of August 2015, the AVID Jail Project had provided individual technical assistance to over 300 individuals.

  • Provides limited legal representation to individual inmates for mental health-related issues at King County Jail and SCORE that could have potential systemic impact.

  • Meets regularly with the administrations of King County Jail and SCORE in order to establish collaborative working relationships and resolve mental health-related issues at the lowest intervention level possible.

The AVID Jail Project also produces videos and other media as part of an ongoing effort to give jail inmates with mental illness an opportunity to tell their own stories in their own words. As Washington’s protection and advocacy agency, DRW is in a unique position to bring recording equipment into jails to capture and share the experiences of people with disabilities. Most members of the public will never enter a jail and will have no firsthand knowledge of how inmates with mental illness fare inside our jails. The AVID Jail Project hopes that the images and stories we share will bring attention to the crisis of mental health in our criminal justice system and will humanize an issue that is all too easily ignored.  Follow Rooted in Rights (a project of DRW) on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram for more videos and articles from the AVID Jail Project.

Videos

When the AVID Jail Project first began regularly visiting King County Correctional Facility (KCCF) last year, it wasn't clear that the jail was forcibly medicating some inmates. Then, while doing rounds in solitary confinement, DRW met Dwayne Stelivan. Stelivan spoke calmly and clearly about his mental health history and his experiences both inside and outside of jail. On the outside, he worked regularly with a doctor to make decisions about his treatment, including whether to take antipsychotic medications. But at KCCF, he said the decision was made for him. You can learn more at the Rooted In Rights blog.

Jails have become de facto psychiatric centers, and people with mental illness who are detained, often without treatment, have stories to tell. These are the voices of citizens with mental illness. 

Minimum security, solitary confinement, released before treatment, back in jail again:  Inconsistencies in how jails treat people with mental illness drive the cycle that sees the same people come in and out, year after year. Learn more about Siyad in the Rooted in Rights blog

While in jail, Tallon Satiacum was denied medication he needed, then punished time after time for behavior related to symptoms of mental illness. Tallon's in-depth story is in the Rooted in Rights blog

When Ricardo Rodriguez attempted to harm himself while incarcerated, the jail responded by punishing him, instead of addressing his mental health needs. When the Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities (AVID) Jail Project brought this issue to the jail, they responded in a surprising way. Learn more about Ricardo's story through the Rooted in Rights story page

DRW staff began investigating the death of Marc Moreno early in 2016. At the time, Marc’s death had made local headlines in his community in central Washington State. Most of the attention focused on the Benton County Jail, where Marc died. But Marc had been arrested while experiencing a mental health crisis, which raised many more questions. Why didn’t he receive proper treatment at the jail? Why was he arrested when he needed treatment? Why hadn’t community mental health services given him better support? This video lays out some of the facts of his story and asks the viewer to think about what contributed to his death. Learn more about Marc's story on Rooted in Rights.


Self-Advocacy Guides for Inmates

Reports

Cruel But Not Unusual: Solitary Confinement in Washington's County Jails, released November 2016

Cruel But Not Unusual describes the harmful effects of solitary confinement on people with disabilities, provides overview of the disproportionate and discriminatory placement of people with disabilities in solitary confinement in Washington’s county jails, and identifies best practices and recommendations for reform. Media coverage of this report:

Prescription for Change: Access to Medication for People with Disabilities in Washington's Jails, released October 2016

Prescription for Change finds that our county jails often delay, disrupt or deny necessary prescription medication to people in their care.  Prescription medication is a common and vital part of medical and mental health care for many people, including people with disabilities. By continuing to make it difficult or impossible for people to access necessary medication, Washington’s jails risk violating the law and, more importantly, causing serious harm and even death.   

You Can't Just "Tell", released September 2016

You Can't Just "Tell" finds that people with mental illness and cognitive disabilities are over-represented in jail populations. For this reason, it is imperative that jails identify individuals with disabilities so these inmates can get the support they need to safely and successfully serve their time in jail. 

The report further pinpoints the need for screening and early identification of inmates with disabilities to allow jails to provide legally-required services and reasonable accommodations, and to maintain safety for all inmates and jail staff. Media coverage of this report:

The Need for Accessible Voting in Jails, released August 2016

The Need for Accessible Voting in Jails calls on county jails and election offices to help jail inmates participate in the upcoming election. The report follows an investigation DRW conducted into the policies and conditions in every county jail across the state that found the vast majority of jails do nothing to support inmate voting. Read more about accessible voting in Washington's jails. Media coverage of this report:

The AVID Jail Project and SCORE: Improving Conditions for Inmates with Mental Illness Through Collaboration, released August 2016

South Correctional Entity (SCORE), a multi-jurisdictional jail located in Des Moines, Washington, has worked collaboratively with the AVID Jail Project of Disability Rights Washington since January 2015 to make swift and significant changes to improve conditions for inmates with mental illness. These changes are the result of a cooperative effort by the AVID Jail Project, SCORE administration, and the jail’s member cities to achieve sustainable reform through collaboration rather than litigation. Media coverage of this report:

County Jails, Statewide Problems: A Look at How Our Friends, Family and Neighbors with Disabilities are Treated in Washington's Jails, released April 2016

County Jails, Statewide Problems examines how friends, family, and neighbors with disabilities are treated in Washington's jails. Each day in Washington, there are approximately 12,000 people in jail. People with disabilities are incarcerated in jail at a much higher rate than people without disabilities. The high prevalence of disability in jail generates a requirement to meet the needs of numerous people with varying disabilities and medical conditions. Disability Rights Washington set out to investigate how well jails were doing in meeting the needs of people with disabilities. 

News

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Contact us

Inmates who self-identify as having, or who have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, or their family members, may request the AVID Jail Project’s Technical Assistance Services by:

  1. Writing to the AVID Jail Project at:
    Disability Rights Washington - AVID Jail Project
    315 5th Avenue S, Suite 850
    Seattle, WA  98104

  2. Calling to set up an in-person or telephone appointment with AVID Jail Project staff by calling (206) 324-1521 or (800) 562-2702. DRW accepts collect calls from correctional facilities. Interpreters are available. Please use 711 for relay service.

Please note that the AVID Jail Project Technical Assistance Services telephone hours are limited and may vary.