Criminal Law Reform issue image

Mathis v. United States Parole Commission

Location: Washington, D.C.
Status: Ongoing
Last Update: May 8, 2024

What's at Stake

This federal class-action lawsuit alleges that the federal government’s post-conviction supervision system in Washington, D.C., violates Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by systematically failing to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities on supervision.

The ACLU, ACLU of D.C., the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, and Latham & Watkins LLP filed a suit in federal court challenging the federal government’s systemic failure to accommodate people with disabilities on supervision in D.C. The two federal agencies tasked with administering supervision in the District, the United States Parole Commission (the Commission) and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), have no system to assess people’s accommodation needs or to provide necessary accommodations. As a result, people with disabilities in D.C. are forced to navigate a maze of conditions that, due to their disability, they lack an equal opportunity to meet—setting them up for failure.

For D.C. residents, a criminal sentence can extend years beyond their time incarcerated through parole or supervised release. People on these forms of supervision must comply with myriad and onerous conditions, under threat of incarceration for any violation.

People with disabilities—who are over-represented among the supervision population—face heightened barriers to navigating their supervision rules. For example, they may be unable to fully comprehend the dozens of complex requirements for supervision; physically move throughout the city to attend required meetings; keep track of all of these obligations; or attend all of their mandated appointments while experiencing serious health issues. People with disabilities therefore regularly need reasonable accommodations to meet these requirements, such as plain-language explanations of their supervision rules, appointment reminders, transportation assistance, and flexible meeting scheduling.

Federal disability law, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, requires agencies administering supervision to systematically and affirmatively assess the accommodation needs of people with disabilities and provide needed accommodations. Mathis seeks an order requiring the Commission and CSOSA to enact a system that affirmatively assesses and meets people’s accommodation needs to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to succeed on supervision.

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