Disability Rights Washington receives national award for prison project

Mark Stroh and Heather McKimmie holding NDRN National Advocacy Award
Prison Project Receives Accolades

Disability Rights Washington received the “NDRN Advocacy Award,” at the annual conference of the National Disability Rights Network in Indianapolis this week.

The award, for the prison project “Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities” (AVID), was accepted by Mark Stroh and Heather McKimmie on behalf of the AVID team.

For years, DRW has investigated the conditions of correctional settings across Washington and worked on creative solutions to some of the most serious problems faced by inmates with mental illness, brain injuries, and physical and intellectual disabilities.

In recognition of the need for more targeted advocacy, DRW created the AVID prison project, with the purpose of listening to the needs of people with disabilities in prison and those who are reentering society, and ensuring that their voices are heard and their rights protected.

In one example of the work on behalf of inmates with disabilities, in 2014, AVID advocates successfully worked with the Washington Department of Corrections to develop a new policy, aimed at eliminating punishment of prisoners with mental illness who harm themselves or attempt suicide.

According to NW News Network, “Washington’s prison system has announced a major policy change when it comes to inmates who harm themselves. The Department of Corrections said Thursday that it will no longer sanction inmates for cutting or other acts of self-injury.”

Going forward, the AVID team will visit prisons across the state, and develop prison issue-related advocacy videos. The team’s fives objectives are to:

  • Identify and document issues faced by prisoners.
  • Make recommendations for addressing issues faced by prisoners.
  • Provide individual advocacy services on issues faced by prisoners.
  • Provide systemic advocacy on issues faced by prisoners.
  • Establish a sustainable advocacy coalition and plan for continual improvement and advocacy for prisoners with disabilities.

You can read more about the AVID project, view AVID videos and meet AVID staff on the Disability Rights Washington website.

Disability Rights Washington publishes Rooted in Rights, is the protection and advocacy agency for Washington, and is a member of the National Disability Rights Network.