WHO WE ARE
Disability Rights Washington (DRW) is a private non-profit and the designated protection and advocacy agency for the state of Washington. Protection and advocacy agencies have federal authority to monitor facilities that serve people with disabilities. For years, DRW has used this authority to investigate the conditions inmates with disabilities experience in correctional settings. In 2014, DRW created Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities (AVID), a program focused on correctional facilities in Washington State.
OUR MISSON AND WHO WE SERVE
AVID focuses on improving the conditions, treatment, services, and reentry for people with disabilities who are incarcerated in our state’s jails and prisons, as well as those who reside at the Special Commitment Center. AVID serves inmates with disabilities who have disability-related issues connected to their incarceration or reentry into society.
WHAT WE DO
Technical Assistance: AVID staff and legal interns respond to disability-related questions from inmates and send resources, referrals, and rights information. The goal of technical assistance is to give inmates information to help them become more effective self-advocates. Inmates with disabilities, as well as their friends and family, can access AVID’s technical assistance service by mail or telephone at the contact information below. AVID takes collect calls from every county jail and prison in the state.
Monitoring and Outreach: AVID regularly visits Washington State prisons, jails, and the Special Commitment Center. During a visit, AVID staff tour the facility, speaking with inmates and staff about disability-related issues. Many of the problems identified by AVID have been addressed by prison and jail officials. As examples, when AVID pointed out that a prison’s outdoor space was not accessible to inmates with mobility impairments, the prison implemented an “ADA yard” to provide greater access to workout equipment. When AVID found that many jails did not protect confidential inmate health information during booking, several jails made screening areas more private.
Individual Investigations: With its small team, AVID has limited ability to conduct individual investigations. However, AVID has investigated a variety of disability-related issues, ranging from the use of restraints and segregation to the need for accommodations.
Systemic Advocacy: AVID staff regularly meet with DOC and jail officials to discuss ways to address systemic issues identified through monitoring and technical assistance, including access to medical and mental health care, reasonable accommodations, and conditions in segregation.
Publications, Reports, and Videos: AVID has created self-help publications and has published a number of reports highlighting its findings regarding issues faced by inmates with disabilities. Additionally, AVID has released several videos featuring inmates sharing the concerns most important to them. For more information, visit www.disabilityrightswa.org/programs/avid