Equal Access to Justice in a Rural Western State

  • Monte Miller
Keywords: Disabilities, mental retardation, rural, social justice, advocacy, criminal justice


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.