Karen James speaks with Liz Reetz, a public interest law fellow with Disability Rights Oregon, who just released her new report “Grave Consequences: How the Criminalization of Disability Leads to Deaths in Jail”. The report revealed that most of the people who died in Oregon jails in 2020 had a disability.
In 2020 as the jail population plummeted in response to the threat of COVID-19, the number of deaths in Oregon jails rose. Jails are shielded from public scrutiny like few other places in society. DRO’s investigation documents the systemic failures—by both hospitals and jails— that could have prevented this tragic loss of human life, and makes clear that many, if not most, of deaths that occurred in Oregon jails were preventable.
The report found the deaths were a result of:
- Jails use restraint practices banned in clinical settings,
- Jails inadequately assess medical conditions,
- Jails are unable to provide necessary treatment,
- Jails failed to take measures to prevent suicide, even when detainees presented with known risks of suicide,
- Oregon lacks meaningful transparency and oversight of jail safety and healthcare, and
- Detainees cycle in and out of jail due to the lack of community treatment options.
Disability Rights Oregon is the federally-designated protection and advocacy system for the state.