Disability laws apply to prisoners seeking parole, SJC rules

May 16, 2017
Boston Globe
By John R. Ellement

The state’s highest court Monday extended the Americans with Disabilities Act to mentally and physically disabled prisoners seeking parole, ruling that the state must help them get support systems in place in the community.

The Supreme Judicial Court, in a unanimous ruling, wrote that the federal law aimed at ensuring equal access and services for the disabled in Massachusetts and the nation also applies to inmates serving sentences in state and county correctional systems.

James R. Pingeon, who filed a brief in support of Crowell on behalf of Prisoners’ Legal Services and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, wrote in an e-mail that the ruling will allow law enforcement to focus on serious violent offenders.

“Very pleased with the SJC decision,’’ he wrote. “Prison beds should be reserved for people who are truly dangerous and not wasted on prisoners with disabilities who could live safely in the community if the parole board would help them find appropriate housing and services.”

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