People with developmental disabilities are coming into contact with the criminal justice system in increasing numbers both as victims and witnesses of crime, and as alleged and convicted perpetrators of crime. The criminal justice and the disability service systems are ill-prepared to ensure that individuals with developmental disabilities are afforded their legal rights of due process.

The Equal Justice for People with Developmental Disabilities project will establish a replicable local advocacy model at the municipal court level. This model will provide a local court advocate who will advocate within the court system so that the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities are ensured. In addition, the Equal Justice project will build local capacity by providing criminal justice mentoring to self-advocates and family members, and by providing training and technical assistance to local criminal justice professionals. Trained family members and self advocates will provide training and support to other self-advocates and family members so that they have an increased capacity to support themselves and others when they come in contact with the criminal justice system.

Articles and Journals

Lists of articles and journals: accessibility, adolescence, criminal justice, sensory, sexuality, victimization, and more.


Training Topics

The Institute provides training and technical assistance at the local, state and national level to day and residential provider agencies, victim services and disability organizations, self-advocates, family members, and other community and professional groups. Topics include:

  • Disparities to receiving due process from suspect and defendant;
  • Healthy sexuality - training for parents as a proactive means of not becoming a victim or defendant;
  • Transitional training for professionals working with students moving from school to work or group home to community;
  • ADA adherence, communication and enhanced understanding of people with non-traditional communication styles and the criminal justice professionals, including attorneys, judiciary, and law enforcement;
  • Personal Safety Education for students, self-advocates and parents;
  • Customized training on the criminal justice topics listed above, based on needs of group;
  • Undergraduate and graduate presentations, including the intersection of the Criminal Justice System and Disabilities, Disability, Sexuality, and the Law, or customized as requested.

Technical Assistance

The Institute's Criminal Justice program provides assistance to agencies and professionals to better serve people will disabilities. Topics include:

  • How to communicate with people with disabilities
  • How to set up office/building for accessibility
  • Information and referral - linking people and agencies with needed resources


Visit the Institute on Disabilities Publications page for available DVDs and more.


  • Communicating with Victims and Suspects: Significant Speech Disabilities (Runtime: 7:11. Captioned.)
  • Autism and First Responders: Seeing Beyond the Smoke (Runtime: 15:46. Captioned.)
  • Recorded Three-Part Webinar Series:
    Prosecuting and Defending Criminal Cases Involving Persons with Disabilities
  • Understanding the Criminal Justice System in Pennsylvania:
    Under Arrest, a step-by-step review of the process—from the arrest, through the preliminary arraignment, preliminary hearing, arraignment, trial, sentencing and possible incarceration.
    Convicted, a succinct overview of the pre-sentence investigation, including the bail process and the role of probation.
  • Encountering People with Disabilities in Emergency Situations. Recorded webinar for first responders on how to communicate with people with disabilities and printable, customizable companion document designed for first responders.

For more information about Criminal Justice programs, training, technical assistance, and other resources, please contact

Beverly Frantz PhD, Project Director
voice: 215-204-5078

Parris A Boyd, Project Coordinator
voice: 215-204-3053


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