December 2019

Dear Friends:

As we ring in the New Year, we thank you for strengthening Disability Rights Washington (DRW). As daily news brings daily challenges, it is easy to feel powerless in the face of discrimination, whether the result
of harmful new policy changes or long-entrenched and seemingly immovable injustice. DRW is uniquely equipped to stop discrimination in its tracks through the power of advocacy, but we are only powerful when you join us.

Your continued support makes our ongoing fight possible. Please join DRW in the fight for justice by making a donation today.

Together we can provide direct assistance to people with disabilities who are in hard to reach places – like prisons and jails – to ensure they can exercise their rights.

  • Last summer, Jesse*, who is a blind military veteran, contacted DRW from a solitary confinement unit in a county jail. Jesse expressed concern about his housing placement, lack of accessible reading materials, and lack of access to the grievance program, a method by which inmates can express complaints to jail administrators. At Jesse’s request, DRW spoke multiple times with the jail’s ADA Coordinator to share Jesse’s concerns. Within a few weeks, DRW had secured Jesse’s access to housing in general population, to the accommodations sought, and to an accessible voting unit inside the jail for the 2019 general election.
  • This year, DRW’s Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities (AVID) Program and Trans in Prison Justice Project hosted 2019 QLAW Sher Kung Summer Fellow, Tommy Statkiewicz. Tommy successfully helped nine transgender prison inmates legally change their names. For many transgender people, access to a legal name change can be critical, as ID documents impact so many facets of our lives, like access to housing, employment, education, and safety in day-to-day interactions. For trans people who are incarcerated, access to a legal name change can be an important act of self-determination, with positive impacts on mental health as well as the logistics of navigating reentry.

Together we can change systems and policies that impact the rights of hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities.

  • DRW continues to report on the unacceptable conditions in our state’s institutions serving people with disabilities. In May of 2019, DRW released its fourth report, Chaotic and Dangerous, about the ongoing risk of harm at the Rainier School. It detailed a trend of choking incidents, sexual assault, and other dangers. To address these conditions, Washington closed part of Rainier in 2019. With that closure, 84 people moved out of Rainier, including 47 into community-based settings. 91% of respondents reported being happy with the new service settings. But the work is not over. Other parts of Rainier remain open, and four institutions for people with developmental disabilities remain in Washington.  Of them, one is currently denied federal funding for new admissions due to treatment gaps and safety violations, and another is out of compliance with active treatment requirements. 
  • In July 2019, DRW and co-counsel from Paukert & Troppman settled a lawsuit regarding Washington State Penitentiary’s practice of holding inmates with mental health needs in overly restrictive settings. Inmates were unnecessarily locked in their cells for more than fifteen hours per day with seriously limited access to outside recreation and therapeutic programming. The settlement will create a medium/minimum custody mental health unit at the Penitentiary and offer more therapeutic programming.
  • DRW continues to fight for appropriate mental health services for people instead of incarceration. The landmark class action lawsuit, AB v DSHS (Trueblood), continues to transform how our criminal justice system treats people with mental illness. The Trueblood bill, SB 5444, was signed by Governor Inslee on May 9, 2019, helping transform Washington’s mental health system. DRW worked with people with mental illness who have been swept up into the criminal justice system, advocates, the state, and legislators to obtain funding and legislative changes to implement a 2018 settlement agreement, and our work continues. 
  • DRW’s public policy team trains people with disabilities to share their stories and advocate for their own rights and systemic change. Jason, who provided testimony at a Trueblood court hearing and legislative hearings says “Through all the hurdles that I’ve overcome, it made me who I am today, and we all need to do our part to create change. We need to come together to bring the message of compassion and to stop misunderstanding. I ended up in jail when I really needed treatment, help and compassion. This should not happen to others.”   

None of us should have to face discrimination. When discrimination happens, you need a community to push back. We are more powerful together.

Join DRW to stop discrimination against people with disabilities. Make your donation today.

Thank you for your support.

With gratitude,

Mark Stroh

Executive Director                                                       

Grace Wang                                       

Board Chair

If you have any questions about donating to DRW, please contact Stacie Siebrecht at 206.324.1521 or stacies@dr-wa.org.

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