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Improving Outcomes for People in Contact with the Criminal Justice System Who Have Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities

NCJ Number
Jazmone Wilkerson; Felicia Lopez Wright; Leigh Ann Davis
Date Published
April 2022
2 pages

This guide suggests steps criminal justice administrators can take to improve the identification and response to the needs of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) who are involved with the criminal justice system.



Customarily, people with IDD, such as Down syndrome or autism spectrum disorder, have not been managed or treated with an accurate diagnosis of their IDD or received appropriate treatment in correctional programs. This guide suggests steps that criminal justice policymakers and practitioners can take to identify and address the needs and treatment of persons in the criminal justice system with IDD. One recommendation is to train all staff to identify people who have IDD. Being able to quickly identify people who have IDD is necessary in providing appropriate supportive services and ensuring their ability to access the legal system and understand the judicial process. This is also mandatory in complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects individuals with IDD from discrimination within the criminal justice system. A second recommended step is to create policies for engaging with and responding to people with IDD. This would ensure that the professionals who interact with people with IDD in the criminal justice system know the symptoms and limitations associated with IDD and accommodate their interactions, communications, and services accordingly. A third recommended step is to develop collaborations with advocates, experts on IDD, and people with lived experience in the criminal justice system. The fourth recommended step is to conduct more research on the needs of people with IDD. This could assist criminal justice administrators in developing and improving programs that address the distinctive needs of people with IDD as they interact with the policies and procedures of a criminal justice system. Summary descriptions are provided for three IDD screening tools.