Equal Access to Justice in a Rural Western State

Monte Miller

Abstract


Twenty three inmates from a rural state penitentiary with mental retardation participated in a study on the differential treatment of persons with mental
retardation by the criminal justice system. After obtaining informed consent, the
inmates were screened for appropriateness for the study using the PPVT-R, a proxy
test for IQ. The inmates were interviewed to obtain a social history and given the
CAST-MR, an instrument that measures the competency of a person with mental
retardation to stand trial. Results suggest participants may not have been competent
to stand trial, learned most of what they knew about the criminal justice system while
incarcerated, and had difficulty with interpersonal conflict and conflict with authority.
The combination of these factors suggests that clients in the study may have been
vulnerable to being coerced into confessing to crimes they did not commit. The presence
of an advocate during criminal justice system encounters may benefit persons
with mental retardation.

Keywords


Disabilities; mental retardation; rural; social justice; advocacy; criminal justice

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