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Americans With Disabilities Act and Criminal Justice: Mental Disabilities and Corrections

NCJ Number
Date Published
7 pages
Publication Series
This paper, the sixth in a series on the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), examines how correctional facilities must deliver programs, services, and activities to inmates, job applicants, and employees with mental disabilities.
Under the ADA, corrections facilities must do more than identify mentally disabled inmates and employees. They must also provide mental health screening, evaluation, and treatment. According to the ADA, a mental disability is any developmental or psychological disorder, such as retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional illness, or specific learning disability. Title II of the ADA governs how correctional facilities are to make their programs accessible. Program access is not required when it poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. Inappropriate policies and procedures that eliminate inmates from programs and services on the basis of a disability can be avoided by clearly defining the eligibility for program participation, by tying eligibility criteria to actual program needs, and by ensuring that the screening process is applied objectively. Under Title I of the ADA, it is illegal to deny equal employment opportunities to qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of the disability. Many approaches to accommodating the needs of inmates with mental disabilities are valid. These include specialized housing units to hold inmates who pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others, treatment for inmates housed in regular housing units, and diversion of inmates to other institutions and services. Each approach, however, must not exclude eligible inmates with mental disabilities from programs and services available to the rest of the inmate population. 9 notes and a list of 6 related NIJ publications

Date Published: January 1, 1995