Stafford, VA – Today was another day in court for Neli Latson, a young man with autism who has spent a significant amount of time in solitary confinement. His case has become the symbol for dysfunction in our national justice system for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). As Latson entered a guilty plea today to charges of assault, The Arc is calling on Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who now has the legal authority to take action, to promptly grant a conditional pardon so that Latson can be transferred from the criminal justice system to the developmental disability system, where he will receive the services he needs.
“Mr. Latson is caught in a recurring cycle of prosecution and punishment due to factors related to his disabilities. He is not a criminal. He is a person with autism and intellectual disability whose behaviors can be aggressive, often in an attempt to communicate. Prison is not where Mr. Latson belongs,” wrote Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc, to Governor McAuliffe in early December requesting a conditional pardon.
Latson, who is 22, has been incarcerated since August 2013 as a result of behavior connected to his disability. He has been held in solitary confinement for most of that time and is presently at a Virginia state prison. His tragic situation is the result of events surrounding his initial detention which occurred while waiting for the public library to open, and from subsequent mental health crises resulting from his confinement. A conditional pardon would allow Latson to be moved immediately to a facility in Florida that will provide the support necessary to help him move on from these events.
Advocates from The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability (NCCJD) and The Arc of Virginia have been involved in this case for months, advocating alongside Latson’s legal team. NCCJD is operated by The Arc and is the first national effort of its kind to bring together both victim and suspect/offender issues involving people with I/DD under one roof. NCCJD is a national clearinghouse for research, information, evaluation, training and technical assistance for criminal justice and disability professionals and other advocates that will build their capacity to better identify and meet the needs of people with I/DD, whose disability often goes unrecognized, and who are overrepresented in the nation’s criminal justice system. Currently, NCCJD is developing training for law enforcement, victim service providers and legal professionals that will support police departments, prosecutor’s offices, and other professionals in the criminal justice system to effectively and fairly administer justice for people with disabilities.
Washington, DC – On October 26, The Arc of Virginia will be honored with The Arc’s Advocacy Matters! Award for their ongoing advocacy work on behalf of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in Virginia. The Arc of Virginia played an instrumental role in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reaching an historic settlement (U.S. v. Virginia Settlement Agreement) requiring the state to close some institutions and provide community-based services for thousands of individuals with I/DD. The award will be presented during The Arc of the United States’ National Convention and International Forum. Jamie Liban, Executive Director of The Arc of Virginia will accept the award on behalf of the organization.
“The Arc of Virginia has tirelessly advocated on behalf of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities for decades. Like all civil rights victories, there were many advocates working for a common cause leading up to this historic settlement. We are proud of the amazing work of Jamie Liban, The Arc of Virginia Board of Directors and the thousands of advocates who helped make this a reality for the people of Virginia,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.
Judge John A. Gibney of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia issued an order approving the settlement in U.S. v. Virginia Settlement Agreement on August 23. The signing of the court order means that Virginia will move from a system that is reliant on large, segregated institutions to one that is focused on safe, integrated community-based services. Virginia will close four of five institutions and provide new Medicaid waiver services for more than 4,000 individuals. Once the waivers are fully funded, thousands of individuals with I/DD will receive the services they need to remain in their homes in the community and many individuals living in institutions will be able to move into community settings.
Jamie Liban will also participate in a concurrent session with officials from the Department of Justice during convention. During the session, she will share The Arc of Virginia’s experience over the course of the DOJ investigation, negotiations and litigation, as well as The Arc of Virginia’s plans to continue its advocacy work throughout the implementation phase. The session will provide an overview of activities related to the U.S. v. Virginia Settlement Agreement and advise other chapters of The Arc on how they can support DOJ in their enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Olmstead decision, a ruling that requires states to eliminate unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities and to ensure that persons with disabilities receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia approved a settlement agreement between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Commonwealth concerning its system for providing services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). DOJ found that Virginia was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to give people the opportunity to live in the community. Virginia will move many individuals out of training centers into the community, will provide services to some of the people on the waiting list, and will dramatically change the way Virginia provides services to individuals with I/DD. To view the statement by The Arc of Virginia, you can download the statement via PDF.
Washington, DC – The Arc, the nation’s largest and oldest human rights organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) serving more than a million individuals and their families, issued the following statement on the news that the Commonwealth of Virginia has reached a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice regarding four of its institutions for people with I/DD.
“This settlement is a big step forward in bringing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities out of the shadows and into communities across Virginia, where they belong. The Department of Justice’s commitment to monitoring and oversight of the implementation of this agreement will be key to ensuring that the shift to community based services away from institutions will be successful for people with I/DD in Virginia.
“The Arc of Virginia and the network of chapters across the state have been instrumental in putting this agreement in place. They will continue their work at the state capitol to advocate for additional resources for people with disabilities so that they can move off of waiting lists and begin receiving the supports they need to live independent lives in the community,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.