Since 2013 The Arc of the United States – a nationwide advocacy organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities – has run the National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability® (NCCJD®). NCCJD’s Pathways to Justice® programme aims to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims, witnesses, defendants, and prisoners with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The programme offers specialist training to develop local multidisciplinary Disability Response Teams composed of criminal justice and disability leaders, including self-advocates, to improve local systems. NCCJD trained nearly 1,000 people in 12 areas between 2015 and 2018.
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities face significant discrimination within the American criminal justice system and are over-represented both as victims and inmates.
Pathways to Justice is designed and delivered in partnership with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It has a multidisciplinary approach involving law enforcement, legal professionals, and victim advocates. It is unique in addressing the needs of both victims and suspects, defendants and inmates with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Following an initial local ‘kick-off’ training event, there is ongoing work to develop and sustain Disability Response Teams. These multidisciplinary teams identify systemic problems in their local communities and use their different perspectives to develop practical solutions.
Examples include developing new local policing protocols and reviewing local police training curricula to improve interactions with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Some areas have developed lists of local organizations that can provide expert advice to criminal justice professionals or defendants or victims with intellectual and developmental disabilities. At a national level, NCCJD is in a consortium working to build a National Training and Technical Assistance Center on mental health and intellectual and developmental disabilities, supported by the Bureau of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice.
Pathways to Justice was piloted in five sites across the U.S. and has now been replicated in an additional seven locations, including Texas, California and Illinois.
NCCJD has supported over 10,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities since it started in 2013.
4,500 people have participated in 20 educational webinars offered by the NCCJD.
The Center has received a growing number of requests for assistance from local and federal law enforcement agencies. The U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) is promoting the Pathways to Justice training on its website.
In 2018, NCCJD created a train-the-trainer version to scale more efficiently, and this has been delivered to 30 trainers as of October 2018.