David Carlson or Tina Pinedo, Disability Rights Washington, (206) 324-1521

Confinement in prison or jail is especially hard for inmates with mental, developmental, physical, and sensory disabilities. These inmates may be placed in isolation for months or years, they may not benefit from prison programs that are inaccessible to them, and are frequently punished for behavior outside their control relating to a disability.

Recognizing the challenges inmates with disabilities face, Disability Rights Washington (DRW) created a new project, Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities (AVID) prison project. DRW is taking advantage of a special authority granted to them by Congress. “The federal government gave Disability Rights Washington the authority to monitor the conditions of any setting serving people with disabilities, and this includes prisons and jails” stated David Carlson, DRW Director of Legal Advocacy. “This federal authority includes the ability to bring cameras in to document what we see.” DRW has used its federal authority to monitor all of the prisons and work camps operated by the Washington Department of Corrections and numerous local county jails across the state. 

While in those facilities and daily at the DRW offices, the AVID prison project attorneys try to help inmates become better advocates for themselves. The attorneys, and the law students who work for them, help hundreds of jail and prison inmates by giving them information about their rights, the processes for enforcing those rights, and techniques for persuasively pursuing those avenues. They do this in-person, over the phone, and by mail. The legal issues addressed range from getting out of solitary confinement, to securing proper medical treatment while in custody, to connecting with social service organizations upon release.

“For over a decade, Disability Rights Washington has worked on making prison and jail better for the thousands of inmates with disabilities living there,” said Mark Stroh, Executive Director of DRW. “We were very excited to start the AVID project earlier this year as it allows our attorneys and videographers to focus even more attention on improving the conditions of prisons and jails for inmates with disabilities.”

The conditions and legal issues faced by inmates are featured on two new videos created by the DRW’s AVID prison project. These are the first of several videos that the project plans to issue in the future.


A Look Inside: AVID prison project films prison conditions

A Look Inside: AVID prison project empowers inmates