Incarcerating Disability: How Society-Wide Structural Violence Diminishes Justice for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities


  • Jennifer Sarrett



People with I/DDs such as autism, fetal alcohol syndrome, and general cognitive impairments are
victimized by the criminal justice system, whether they encounter it as victims or as the accused.
Although at drastically higher risk for being victimized, they are further victimized by the testimonial
injustice that prevents the crimes against people with I/DD from being investigated, and so these
victims rarely justice. In the aftermath of deinstitutionalization and growing economic disparity,
people with I/DD are disproportionately represented in incarcerated settings. Once incarcerated,
they often serve longer, harder sentences. This article provides an overview of what we know about
people with I/DD in criminal justice settings and structures and what we need to learn. Based partly
on preliminary qualitative research with adults with I/DD about their experiences with criminal justice
settings and structures, I argue that this population is falling through the cracks in an already fragile
and uneven justice system.


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