is a 2L at
not in the Chastek Law Library, she
enjoys hiking, camping, going to
the movies, and baking. She can be
reached at email@example.com.
Gonzaga University School of Law.
give as many students an opportunity to
participate as wanted, but also be time-limited enough they could get some experience without a long time commitment,”
says Abolofia. “The collaboration during
our statewide jail project highlighted vol-unteerism and the law school’s commitment to social justice while simultaneously introducing the kind of work we do at
DRW to the larger Spokane community.”
Jail inmates were almost five times more
likely than the general population to re-
port having at least one disability, accord-
ing to a Department of Justice, Bureau
of Justice Statistics, 2012 special report
titled, “Special Report: Disabilities Among
Prison and Jail Inmates.” The same study
finds that nationally, about four out of 10
individuals in U.S. jails have a disability,
nearly half of all women in jail have a dis-
ability, and, of those with disabilities in
jail, 16% have multiple disabilities.
Washington has approximately 12,000
inmates in its jails. Additionally, people with
disabilities are incarcerated at a far higher
rate than people without disabilities, ac-
cording to a Washington Office of Financial
Management’s 2014 Analysis of Statewide
Adult Correctional Needs and Costs report.
After student review of the jail policies
with the DRW tool, and jail visits by stu-
dents and attorneys, it was clear that there
were several systemic problems through-
out Washington county jails for inmates
with disabilities. The most common prob-
lems faced by those with disabilities in
county jails are the inadequate or nonex-
istent screening of inmates for mental ill-
ness, developmental disabilities, and brain
injuries, according to the report published
by DRW. Other problems include limited
access to medication, inappropriate and
JAIL INMATES WERE
ALMOST FIVE TIMES
MORE LIKELY THAN
AT LEAST ONE
unnecessary use of solitary confinement,
limited or nonexistent access to programming, inaccessibility of jails for inmates
with physical and sensory disabilities, and
lack of access to voting.
An inmate I met in the Kittitas County Jail said he didn’t even know the jail
had a yard because he had never seen
it. He self-identified as having a disability, suffered from severe anxiety, and
was kept in segregated housing. This
troubled me, considering that inmates
not in segregated housing usually got
to spend roughly five hours outside
in the yard each day. Another inmate I
met, who was also in segregated housing, said that he had not been invited to
any of the programs offered at the jail,
including church services, even though
he wanted to participate.
County jails in Washington serve a large
population of those with disabilities and
currently lack policies and resources to
properly care for those inmates. DRW
will be releasing more detailed reports
throughout the year on the most common
problems found in all of the county jails.
All reports will be available on the DRW
website at www.disabilityrightswa.org.
This experience was eye-opening in
many ways for me and my fellow law students. First, we were all able to get firsthand knowledge of what a jail is like on
the inside and what to expect from them.
Like me, this was the first time many of us
were inside a jail. Second, we were all able
to witness and contribute to advocacy
work in real time.
Throughout the remainder of my
time in law school at Gonzaga, I will continue to seek experiences like this one
that will allow me to get close to important issues. NWL