The Arc of Texas Comments on Timely Access to Supporters of Certain County Jail Records of Individuals with IDD

HB 3447 by Representative James White, which relates to certain procedures concerning the welfare of prisoners confined in county jails. Manager of Public Policy & Advocacy Alex Cogan provided input on the bill on April 20, 2021.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide input on HB 3447. My name is Alex Cogan, and I am Manager of Public Policy and Advocacy for The Arc of Texas, a statewide organization that promotes, protects, and advocates for the human rights and self-determination of Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Firstly, and most unfortunately, people with IDD are disproportionately represented in the criminal legal system. Despite being roughly 1.5% percent of the general population, conservative estimates show they make up 4 to 10% of our jail and prison populations. This population’s unique characteristics require communication adjustments and accommodations.

Secondly, 30 to 35% of people with IDD are diagnosed with mental health conditions. This is nearly twice the rate of the general population due to their significantly higher rates of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. According to the National Association of Counties on Developmental Disabilities, people with IDD are three-times more likely to be violently victimized, seven-times more likely to experience sexual assault, and four- to ten-times more likely to become victims of a crime.

It is common for people with IDD to have a family member, power of attorney, supported decision-making agreement, or sometimes a guardian support them. Because it is a challenge for people with IDD to understand the criminal legal system, and more specifically the new environment of being confined to jail (which can be dysregulating and create greater challenges), it is imperative that their family members, supporters, powers of attorney, and guardians receive medical information and records in a timely fashion from county jails.