Access Living wishes to acknowledge the dedication and hard work of the author and primary researcher of this report, Elesha Nightingale, as well as the project supervisor and editor, Amber Smock.
We thank our founding President & CEO, Marca Bristo, who was instrumental in the startup phase of this project. It was her firm belief that criminal justice reform would benefit from a cross-disability perspective. Sadly, Marca passed away from cancer on September 8, 2019.
In completing this paper, we also owe a debt to the disability justice vision of Access Living’s Advance Your Leadership Power (AYLP) racial justice organizing group, which has led community discussions for several years on the impact of the criminal justice system on people with disabilities. The group is supported by Access Living’s Racial Justice Organizer, Candace Coleman.
Sharing one’s personal story of incarceration is difficult for many reasons. Access Living particularly thanks the sixteen individuals with disabilities who experienced jail incarceration, who agreed to be interviewed on or off the record for this project.
We thank the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for its support for our project, through the Safety and Justice Challenge initiative.
We thank Justice System Partners for their technical support to us as MacArthur SJC grantees; the Cook County Safety and Justice Challenge Cook County Network Site for including us as we began work in this area; Beth Bales for copy editing; Ensemble Media for design support.
We thank the Illinois Justice Project for their technical assistance. We thank the many Access Living staffers who were part of the project’s discussions and the paper’s execution.
We thank the staff of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and the Philadelphia Department of Prisons for providing tours of their jail facilities, and for their thoughtful discussion of issues affecting detained people with disabilities.
We thank the following individuals who also contributed to shaping this project:
Amanda Antholt, Equip for Equality; Gianna Baker, Housing Action Illinois/Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance; Dr. Liat Ben-Moshe, Assistant Professor of Criminology, Law and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago; Lieutenant John Benigno of the Chicago Police Department; Michael W. Bien, Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld, LLC; Jordan Boulger, Cook County Adult Probation Department; Lydia X.Z. Brown, disability justice activist and teacher; Ira Burnim, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law; Sharlyn Grace and Ruby Pinto, Chicago Community Bond Fund; Nora Handler of the Sibling Leadership Network; Jennifer McGowan-Tomke, NAMI Chicago; Kaitlin Kall and Alison Hastings, Vera Institute of Justice; Sarah King and Nicolette Ward of Romanucci & Blandin, LLC; Susan Kahan, LCPC, of the Developmental Disabilities Family Clinic at the University of Illinois Chicago and the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center; Dr. Amanda Klonsky, Petey Greene; Era Laudermilk of the Cook County Public Defender’s Office; Jennifer Mathis, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law; Alan Mills of the Uptown People’s Law Center; Leroy F. Moore Jr. of Sins Invalid and Krip Hop Nation; Diane O’Connell, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless; Dr. Rashad K. Saafir, Bobby E. Wright Comprehensive Behavioral Center, Inc.; Professor Margo Schlanger of the University of Michigan Law School; Ed Simmons, former Cook County Jail staffer; Commissioner Karen Tamley, Chicago Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities; Julie Wertheimer, City of Philadelphia’s Office of Criminal Justice; Juleyka Lantigua Williams of 70 Million.
Finally, we honor the work of the following individuals and groups who have paved the way on addressing disability and jail reduction:
Rebecca Cokley and Rebecca Vallas, Center for American Progress; Euree Kim of Alternatives to Calling the Police (ACP); Timotheus Gordon, Jr. of AYLP and the Chicagoland Disabled People of Color Coalition (DPOCC); Jae Jin Pak, DPOCC; Judy Heumann, Ford Foundation; Talila “TL” Lewis, Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of Deaf Communities (HEARD); American Constitution Society; Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities (AVID); American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); Arc of the United States; Center for Court Innovation; Center for Public Representation; Communities United; Disability Advocates for Rights and Transition (DART); Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF); First Defense Legal Aid; Harriet Tubman Collective; Human Rights Watch; Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority; League of Women Voters of Cook County Criminal Justice Interest Group; National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI); National Association of the Deaf (NAD); National Center for Victims of Crime; National Disability Rights Network (NDRN); Ruderman Family Foundation; We Can’t Breathe: The Deaf & Disabled Margin of Police Brutality Project; and countless others.
We look forward to expanding our conversations about disability and jail incarceration with local and national partners going forward. The work is not over.