The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) released a statement condemning the imprecise language recently used by public figures to discuss the connection between mental health and mass shootings. President Trump and Dana Loesch, a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, used words including “sicko,” “nuts” and “crazy person” to describe the diagnoses of mass shooter Nikolas Cruz. The NAMI statement criticizes such comments as reinforcing “inaccurate and negative stereotypes” that “create barriers to having real conversations about how to improve the mental health services that lead to recovery and participation in American society by people experiencing mental health conditions.” CNN.com interviewed several mental health experts who also suggested that mental illness is not a reliable condition for predicting violent behavior. Click here to read NAMI’s statement and click here to read CNN’s article.
Starting January 8th National Public Radio (NPR) began broadcasting a multi-part investigative series about an “epidemic of sexual assault” experienced by people with intellectual disabilities. Titled “Abused and Betrayed” (#AbusedandBetrayed), the investigation examines over 150 cases of assault and relies on previously unpublished data collected by the Justice Department. NPR’s team of reporters, led by Joe Shapiro, discovered the rate of assault is seven times higher than for people without disabilities. Each chapter in the 5-part series features a print story, photographs and a radio broadcast. Below is an excerpt from the first story in the excellent report.
“NPR reviewed hundreds of cases of sexual assault against people with intellectual disabilities. We looked at state and federal data, including those new numbers we obtained from the Justice Department. We read court records. We followed media accounts and put together a database of 150 assaults so serious that they garnered rare local and national media attention. We talked to victims, their guardians, family, staff and friends.
We found that there is an epidemic of sexual abuse against people with intellectual disabilities. These crimes go mostly unrecognized, unprosecuted and unpunished. A frequent result was that the abuser was free to abuse again. The survivor is often re-victimized multiple times.”
The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the Chicago PD alleging its officers have not received proper training for interacting with people with disabilities. This Chicago Tribune article by Jason Meisner and Jeremy Gorner reports “The suit alleged the brutality was “magnified for people with disabilities.” Nationally, an estimated 33 to 50 percent of those killed by police have a disability, with approximately 25 percent of people killed having a mental illness, the suit alleged. The problem also extends to police use of nonlethal force, including with Tasers, the ACLU contended.”
Five state health officials in Maryland are being held in contempt of court for disobeying a court order to provide psychiatric hospital beds to mentally ill criminal defendants. In her 58-page opinion Circuit Court Judge Gale E. Rasin wrote “The actions and omissions of the Department and the respondent officers and agents have been knowing, intentional and voluntary.” Click here to read more on the Washington Post‘s report.
The Supreme Court rules that the state of Texas cannot rely on a dated definition of intellectual disability in deciding who receives the death penalty. In the opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, “Adjudications of intellectual disability should be ‘informed by the views of medical experts.” Read more
An op-ed from the Washington Post’s editorial board comments on an ACLU report that details damage faced by disabled inmates when they are placed in solitary confinement. The experience is often traumatic and the effects, difficult to reverse. Read more
Federal officials claim an attorney that hundred hired to fight to keep their disability checks funneled $600 million in fraudulent claims. Read more
In the wake of the Chicago attack on a teenager with intellectual disabilities, a New York Times writer reflects on the cruelty her brother faced as child. She writes of the Chicago attack, “His being different may be the main reason they chose him.” Read more
New data from the FBI shows that the number of hate crimes against Americans with disabilities have declined. Read more
A new report from Harvard Law suggests that in so-called “outlier counties”, those with intellectual disabilities are more susceptible to be sentenced to the death penalty. Read more