Diversion and Reentry


Reducing the Incarceration of People with Disabilities

In 2018, the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge awarded Access Living a one-year planning grant to research, analyze, and report on how to reduce the incarceration of people with disabilities, with an initial focus on the Cook County criminal justice system.

Today, in partnership with impacted people and community partners, Access Living is dedicated to advancing policy solutions that reduce mass incarceration and recidivism through the Accessible Public Safety Campaign.

The Process

To help develop a collective group consciousness between non-disabled individuals and people with disabilities, designed to empower people to understand their relationship between social inequities, social progress, and community advancement for impacted people of color with disabilities.

Core Components

  1. Define collective group consciousness, its characteristics, and how it is formed.
  2. Understand how hierarchies/internalized oppression persist for disabled people of color impacted by the establish socio-economic, political, and criminal system, because of systemic design that produces unfair treatment and conditions that lead to prejudice and discrimination. 
  3. Examine development of group consciousness in context of the American disability movement, and other social movement successes and challenges.
  4. Identify recent challenges and opportunities for the development of collective identity amongst between historically marginalized groups that can be used to advance mutual aid and support for impacted people of color with disabilities.
  5. Offer opportunities to strengthen group consciousness and collective action.

Diversion and Reentry Policy Priorities

Data Collection

Access Living will work to help create a more effective and efficient justice system for people with disabilities through advocacy to improve disability data collection by established criminal justice agencies and related organizations.

Reentry Mapping

Access Living will work to improve the reentry process by pushing local and state officials to formally begin the re-entry process at the time of booking in jail and/or prison following arrest. We believe that by redesigning the reentry process to begin at the beginning of incarceration, we will help both individuals and the institutions providing services better meet the needs of those returning to the community following incarceration.

Cross-Disability Integration

Access Living will work to make the criminal justice system fairer and more equitable by working to ensure criminal justice system agency officials, and related stake holders, undergo cross-disability training and other relevant education opportunities. This will better help agencies and other stakeholders be able to identify and more meaningfully engage incarcerated people with disabilities.

Coordinated Supports

Access Living will work to help develop a more cohesive network of supportive services for people with disabilities diverted away from the criminal justice system and those going through the process of returning. We recognize this as an essential step to help make the process more accessible and manageable for people with disabilities.

Holistic Health Interventions

Access Living will work to impacted people with disabilities have access to health interventions that help address the whole human experience. This includes interventions that help address issues including, but not limited to, identity, spirituality, mental and behavioral conditions, as well as physical needs. We understand that it is important to recognize the humanity of people with disabilities who encounter the criminal justice system, and work to advance interventions that help address the diverse set of needs that are often present.

Affordable, Accessible Housing

Access Living will work to help ensure impacted people with disabilities have access to affordable and accessible housing opportunities as they not only return home from the criminal justice system, but as they are diverted away from it as well. We understand stable, secure, accessible housing to be a vital tool for prevention and recidivism reduction.

Training/Career Growth

Access Living will work to create opportunities for impacted people with disabilities to access clear pathways to employment and business development opportunities that can help decrease their level of risk and interaction with the criminal justice system. We understand the importance of providing meaningful workforce opportunities and experience to impacted people with disabilities as a crucial element to reducing incarceration and recidivism in the long run.

Economic Opportunity

Access Living will work to increase and financial limits to impacted people with disabilities who rely on disability centered economic support such as Social Security. We understand that disability economic constraints can limit impacted disabled persons’ ability to secure housing, food, transportation, and other necessities.

Impactful Leadership

Access Living will work to create pathways for formal leadership opportunities for impacted people with disabilities within the public and non-profit sector, especially diversion and reentry centered organizations and efforts.

Targeted Community Investment

Access Living will work to advance targeted investment in geographic areas most likely to receive impacted people with disabilities. We understand that gradual and consistent disinvestment in various communities perpetuates racial, economic, and other types of disparities that lead to the increased marginalization of impacted people with disabilities. By targeting investments in communities most likely to be impacted by high rates of incarceration, we aim to strengthen our capacity to help impacted people with disabilities.