Ross, Scanlon Introduce the Protection and Advocacy for Criminal Legal Services Act

Legislation will help people with disabilities navigate the criminal justice system

August 23, 2023

Congresswomen Deborah Ross (NC-02) and Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), members of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the Protection and Advocacy for Criminal Legal Services Act. This legislation would create a grant program to help Protection and Advocacy Systems (P&As) address the needs of people with disabilities who become involved in the criminal justice system. Currently, P&As lack funding and resources to properly support people with disabilities who need assistance navigating the legal system. People with disabilities are highly overrepresented in the criminal justice system – making up 15% of the U.S. population but 40% of state prison populations.

“People with disabilities are far too often mistreated and neglected by our nation’s criminal justice system, and we must do more to ensure they have the resources and support needed to access justice,” said Congresswoman Ross. “Our Protection and Advocacy for Criminal Legal Services Act will ensure that Protection and Advocacy Systems have the funding they need to effectively protect individuals with disabilities navigating our complex legal system. Every American is entitled to equal justice under the law, and I thank Congresswoman Scanlon for joining me in fighting for this fundamental promise for people with disabilities.”

"People with disabilities are grossly overrepresented in our state and federal prison populations, so it is essential that agencies with the knowledge and authority to advocate on their behalf have the resources they need to help meet the high demand for assistance,” said Congresswoman Scanlon. "I'm proud to join Rep. Ross in introducing legislation to provide dedicated funding for every Protection and Advocacy (P&A) agency to invest in the hiring of advocates and staff to provide this needed advocacy.”

The Protection and Advocacy for Criminal Legal Services Act is endorsed by the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN).

“People in contact with the criminal legal system should not face additional punishment for having a disability,” said NDRN Executive Director Marlene Sallo. “But in jails and prisons across the country, they face discrimination, access barriers, and law enforcement with no disability training. We thank Representative Ross for introducing this important legislation that would begin to address the inequities experienced by people with disabilities.”

Bill text is available here.