The AVID Jail Project of Disability Rights Washington works on behalf of inmates with mental illness in several local jails. As Washington’s protection and advocacy agency, Disability Rights Washington is in a unique position to bring recording equipment into jails to capture and share the experiences of people with disabilities. Most members of the public will never enter a jail or have firsthand knowledge of how inmates with mental illness fare inside our jails. This video is a result of our ongoing efforts to give jail inmates with mental illness an opportunity to tell their own stories in their own words.
The AVID Jail Project hopes that the images and stories we share will bring attention to the crisis of mental health in our criminal justice system. More importantly, we hope that these stories will humanize an issue that is all too easily ignored. These are the voices of citizens with mental illness. We will continue to visit jails and release these videos, so please follow our efforts and share them with others.
Unlike prisons, jails largely hold individuals who have not been convicted of a crime but are instead awaiting trial and unable to afford bail. The rate of individuals with mental illness in our jails is staggeringly high, with jails and prisons functioning as de facto psychiatric facilities. Since early this year, the AVID Jail Project has regularly been performing outreach and advocacy for inmates with mental illness at King County Correctional Facility in Seattle, Washington, and the SCORE Jail in Des Moines, Washington. We provide information and assistance to inmates and their advocates to help them exercise their right to access mental health treatment in jail, and avoid harmful conditions of confinement. We also work with jail administration to address systemic issues such as the use of solitary confinement, and timely access to psychiatric medication.