Criminal Justice Reform on a Budget: Empowering Chapters to Advocate in Their Communities

Monday, July 23
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Location: Grand Ballroom BC

Taking on criminal justice reform is a daunting task, yet so many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities end up in the criminal justice system as victims, witnesses, suspects, defendants, and incarcerated persons. Disability advocates do not always know how to step into criminal justice advocacy, facing both the unknown and the overwhelming scope of injustice to be addressed. But the reality is that there will never be enough funds, enough time, or enough resources to do a perfect job with criminal justice advocacy. Instead, disability advocates need a place to start and guidance on how to do so.

Representatives from the federal policy team and The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability® (NCCJD®) will offer their expertise on criminal justice reform to disability advocates. First, The Arc's Director of Rights Policy, Nicole Jorwic, will educate chapter leaders on how to approach state legislators and advocate for statewide policy reforms. NCCJD will then teach advocates how to assess their current resource potential for criminal justice advocacy. Once chapters have a better sense of the resources at their disposal, staff will train advocates to handle criminal justice intake calls from their community, with recommendations based upon NCCJD’s extensive information and referral experience. Making time for intakes not only helps individuals and their families facing complex criminal justice involvement, but also gives advocates a real-time understanding of the most pressing criminal justice concerns in their communities.

Once disability advocates are equipped with this information, they can add their disability expertise and use the combined knowledge to educate law enforcement, legal professionals, legislators, and other community leaders. Different audiences will have different interests that advocates will need to identify to make the most convincing pitches for lasting change in their communities. NCCJD staff will share their knowledge in educating legal professionals and law enforcement about intellectual and developmental disabilities. In addition, presenters will discuss how disability advocacy groups and organizations can partner with other social justice causes impacting their communities, including criminal justice reform groups. Advocates will learn the benefits and cautions of intersectional advocacy, while learning to mobilize and maximize the grassroots potential in their communities. Next, the presenters will provide an overview of the various tools and support NCCJD and The Arc of the United States has to offer chapter leaders exploring criminal justice reform, including NCCJD’s new Pathways to Justice® Trainer Certification Course, which empowers chapters to become lead trainers on criminal justice issues in their communities. Chapters will also be introduced to NCCJD’s new Community of Practice, an online community with a goal of supporting chapters to provide criminal justice/disability education and advocacy through the Pathways to Justice® training. Here, participants will identity and discuss common practice issues, jointly problem solve and propose solutions, initiate new practice activities, and much more. The Community of Practice will also be an avenue through which the NCCJD team can distribute information and updates on all things criminal justice and disability.

Taylor Woodard

Program Associate, Criminal Justice Initiatives
The Arc of the United States

Driven by her life with a disability, Taylor left an analyst position on Wall Street in 2010 to pursue dual-masters from UT-Austin in public policy and social work. Upon graduation, Taylor accepted a fellowship at The Arc where she advocated for policies benefiting individuals with I/DD. Afterwards, Taylor was invited to join The Arc full-time. Since that time, she has contributed to The Arc’s communications, family support, and, most recently, the criminal justice team.

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Leigh Ann Davis

Director of Criminal Justice Initiatives
The Arc of the United States

Leigh Ann Davis, M.S.S.W., M.P.A., is the Director of Criminal Justice Initiatives for The Arc’s Program Innovations Group and oversees The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability®. She has authored numerous publications covering topics related to criminal justice/victimization issues and has presented both nationally and internationally regarding criminal justice and disability issues. She has also provided congressional testimony on the delivery of law enforcement services to people with developmental disabilities.

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Nicole Jorwic

Director of Rights Policy
The Arc of the United States

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Ariel Simms

Program Manager & Attorney, Criminal Justice Initiatives
The Arc of the United States

Ariel Simms is the Program Manager & Attorney of Criminal Justice Initiatives at The Arc of the United States. In this role, she advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who become entangled in the criminal justice system as victims, suspects, defendants, witnesses, or incarcerated persons. She completed her Juris Doctor degree at Harvard Law School and has Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and French from Saginaw Valley State University. Prior to law school, Ariel worked as a Mental Health Counselor in an inpatient psychiatric unit of a hospital. Ariel has worked on disability rights issues both in the United States and abroad, including in the realms of healthcare policy, human rights, and criminal justice. Ariel has a passion for social justice reform, especially in the realms of legal capacity, supported decision-making, mass incarceration, conditions of confinement, and policing.

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