~ Equal Justice Talks Newsletter ~
A Newsletter for the Disability and Criminal Justice Communities
Dear Colleagues and Friends: The Criminal Justice Advocacy Program of The Arc of New Jersey has created this newsletter to bring information to you when we are not able to conference and train in person, full of links, articles and information to help you work with people with I/DD. Our hope is that this newsletter can keep you apprised of many of the issues that we have worked on together and will continue to address as we go forward. 

For anyone working with a person with disabilities looking for the most up-to-date connection to services, please visit this link for information: https://www.arcnj.org/information/covid-19-updates-information.html .  

If you are providing services to a person with disabilities and need to know about any court proceeding, you can visit https://njcourts.gov/courts/closings.html . You can visit this website to see closings and contact information. If the person is a client of the NJ Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), please download and complete the Criminal Justice Advocacy  Intake and Release of Information form  to access assistance for the person. This form should be emailed to  cjap@arcnj.org  or faxed to 732-733-6804. Please email with any questions to  cjap@arcnj.org
Highlighted in this Issue:
  • Consent= Empowerment: Making Sure Everyone Can Exercise Their Right to Choose or Refuse Sex
  • Partners in Justice Law and Law Enforcement Summit
  • A Guide for Attorneys - Assist Attorneys in Understanding the Possible Presence of an I/DD in Someone Involved in the Criminal Justice System
  • Smith-Magenis Syndrome - An Article about the Importance of Good Diagnosis
  • Finding your Individuality - 2020 Programming Update
  • Perception of ASD by Judges and Juries
  • Community Health Law Project - Resources
  • Victims, Witnesses and Defendants with Mental Illness or Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
  • Equal Justice Talks Archived Webinars

Consent= Empowerment: Making Sure Everyone Can Exercise Their Right to Choose or Refuse Sex

By Kecia Weller & Leigh Ann Davis
Conversations about consent can be confusing, especially for people with intellectual and development disability (I/DD) who have not been given education on this topic. Essentially, consent means to give approval or to agree, and it’s also about empowerment through communication. How can we expect people with disabilities to be empowered through their communication when they aren’t provided access to much-needed education about consent? How are they being supported to communicate consent when it comes to choosing or refusing sex? Are their choices being heard and respected?

Partners in Justice Law and
Law Enforcement Summit
On March 2, The Arc of New Jersey hosted a Partners in Justice Law and Law Enforcement Summit entitled, "Preventing Sexual Abuse and Harassment of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities." The event, held at the New Jersey Law Center, included an opening keynote highlighting national efforts on this topic, a morning panel on communications between individuals with I/DD and law enforcement, and an afternoon panel which focused on guardianship and sexual consent. This project is co-sponsored by the NJ State Bar Association, The NJ Institute of Continuing Legal Education and the NJ State Bar Foundation, and made possible through funding from the IOLTA Fund of the NJ State Bar. We would like to thank our speakers, sponsors, attendees and funders for helping make this event happen.
A Guide for Attorneys
Assist Attorneys in Understanding the Possible Presence of an I/DD in Someone Involved in the Criminal Justice System
This guide is presented as a public service of the Criminal Justice Advocacy Program of The Arc of New Jersey and provides a general introduction to relevant issues and concerns for this population. It is designed to assist attorneys in understanding the possible presence of an intellectual and/or developmental disability (I/DD) in someone involved in the criminal justice system. This information is intended to help attorneys make an initial identification of someone who has I/DD and become aware of what criminal justice and community resources are available to help them. It is not intended to be a comprehensive treatise on all relevant legal or psychological issues, nor is it intended to provide or substitute for legal advice or assistance.

Smith-Magenis Syndrome
Delayed Diagnosis in a House of Correction
Clinical Report: American Journal of Medical Genetics
We report a 25-year-old female confirmed to have Smith–Magenis syndrome (SMS) due to a de novo RAI1 variant. Her past history is significant for developmental and intellectual delay, early and escalating maladaptive behaviors,and features consistent with significant sleep disturbance, the etiology of which was not confirmed for over two decades. The diagnosis of SMS was initially suspected in 1998 (at age 12 years), but that was 5 years before the initial report of RAI1 variants as causative of the SMS phenotype; cytogenetic fluorescence in situ hybridization studies failed to confirm an interstitial deletion of 17p11.2. Re-evaluation for suspected SMS was pursued with RAI1 sequencing analysis in response to urgent parental concerns of escalating behaviors and aggression with subsequent incarceration of the subject for assault of a health professional.
Finding your Individuality
While our office is closed for public health, we are still supporting individuals and are focusing on different ways to deliver education and encourage connections. We are proud to partner with The New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities to provide online education programming at this time.
Putting You First

  • COVID-19 has led to quick and major changes in life (such as change in routine). These changes can bring about different feelings. This online education program for self advocates is focused on supporting your social and emotional health, especially at this time. Program starts May 11th. Group size will be kept small to support conversation and learning. Enroll today. Click here.
Online Programming for Parents, Caregivers, and Professionals

  • We recognize the importance in working in partnership with parents, caregivers, and professionals to ensure that the sexuality related questions, concerns, and interests of individuals with intellectual and developmental differences are supported. We are introducing online programming to help you communicate about healthy sexual development with self advocates.  Attendees are encouraged to bring questions around the topic to guide the discussion! Join us for our introductory online program. Advocating for Healthy Sexuality & Safety on May 20th at 2:30pm. There are a limited number of seats. Register here
for further information
Perception of ASD by
Judges and Juries

A National Practice Focusing on Representing
People with Mental Disabilities

By: Elizabeth Kelley, Esq.

"It is recommended that expert witness testimony be given in order to provide understanding of the behavior and presentation of a defendant with ASD during court proceedings. An expert can help the jury understand the ways in which the ASD diagnosis, in particular the different symptomologies of ASD, may have contributed to the offending behavior. When given this information a jury may be less likely to misinterpret the defendant's behavior and presentation during court proceedings".
Elizabeth Kelley's new book titled  Representing People with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Practical Guide for Criminal Defense Lawyers  will be published by the American Bar Association this Spring. Topics include:

  • Co-Occurring Disorders
  • Testing
  • Competency
  • Risk of Violence
  • Mitigation

For more information on Elizabeth Kelley, Esq., visit:
Community Health Law Project
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals with disabilities need legal assistance navigating issues related to:

  • Housing, including rent and mortgage obligations, eviction, or need for repairs
  • Stimulus check issues
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Health insurance coverage
  • Food Assistance
  • Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Advance Directives
  • Family matters such as child support, visitation, or domestic violence
  • Other issues that may be affecting them during this crisis

Staying Informed can help decrease anxiety about COVID-19. It can also help prevent the spread of rumors and discourage the stigma and exclusionary behavior that can occur with COVID-19 or any other infectious diseases. Follow the link below for official state and national COVID-19 resources.  
information, including local office information for assistance!
Victims, Witnesses and Defendants with Mental Illness or Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) or mental illness are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, as victims, witnesses, suspects, and defendants. In an effort to inform prosecutors’ strategies when working with these individuals, PCE, in collaboration with  the Arc  and  NAMI , has developed a guide that includes the following information:

  • An overview of I/DD and mental illness and the legal obligations involved when interacting with people with I/ DD or mental illness

  • Practical approaches for prosecutors to more effectively work with these populations, as victims, witnesses, or defendants

  • Examples of programs that prosecutors have either created or participated in that address the involvement of persons with I/DD or mental illness in the criminal justice system

The mission of Prosecutors’ Center for Excellence is to create a better justice system by identifying, evaluating and implementing best practices for modern prosecutors.

  • Consulting- PCE provides consulting, office assessments and technical assistance on issues facing the modern prosecutor.
  • Best Practices Committees- PCE develops and supports statewide Best Practices Committees for prosecutors nationwide.
  • National Meetings- PCE facilitates regular national meetings where modern prosecutors can share ideas.
Links to related information:
  • Read the entire guide: click here
  • Prosecutors' Center for Excellence: pceinc.org
  • National Alliance on Mental Health: nami.org
Equal Justice Talks Webinar Series
Our monthly webinar series hosted by The Criminal Justice Program presents experts on a broad range of issues related to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who become involved in the criminal justice system as defendants, victims and witnesses. On the Third Thursday of each month, from 2pm to 3pm EST, you can register free of charge to hear live presentations about Medicaid/SSI rules and regulations as they apply to people with criminal histories; sexual civil rights; cognitive capacity to consent; guardianship issues; defending the client with disabilities; interview techniques when working with a person with disabilities and many other topics.

This program is made possible through funding by
the New Jersey State Bar Foundation