Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



A majority of American prisoners have at least one disability. So how jails and prisons deal with those prisoners’ needs is central to institutional safety and humaneness, and to reentry success or failure. In this chapter, I explain what current law requires of prison and jail officials, focusing on statutory and constitutional law mandating non-discrimination, accommodation, integration, and treatment. Jails and prisons have been very slow to learn the most general lesson of these strictures, which is that officials must individualize their assessment of and response to prisoners with disabilities. In addition, I look past current law to additional policies that could improve medical and mental-health care for prisoners with disabilities. What is needed are programs that bridge the wall separating the inside and outside of prison, with respect to record-keeping, personnel, and finances; together, these have the potential to greatly improve care, and the lives and prospects, of prisoners with disabilities.