Disability Justice

The [prison] mental health clinician, a wonderful woman, came back to my segregation cell and talked to me through my tray slot and started to offer me real help. She brought me over to the mental health unit for a while and started helping me figure out what was wrong with me. I’m not bad, I have a disorder.

– Nicole, Trust beneficiary

Learn More About Nicole's Story


Trust beneficiaries are at increased risk for involvement with the criminal justice system, both as victims and defendants, due to their disabilities as well as gaps in community behavioral health and support systems.  The disability justice focus area is aimed at reducing the involvement and recidivism of Trust beneficiaries in the criminal justice system.

Since 2005, the Trust’s board of trustees has directed significant funding and staff resources towards criminal justice reform efforts in Alaska to address this and other justice-related issues affecting beneficiaries, including reducing the involvement and recidivism of Trust beneficiaries in the criminal justice system as well as preventing the victimization of beneficiaries. Areas of emphasis center on offender diversion programs such as crisis stabilization and therapeutic courts, providing behavioral health services for persons who are incarcerated, and reentry services for returning citizens. The Trust’s efforts in reducing recidivism include vital partnerships with reentry coalitions), state agencies including corrections, juvenile justice, the Alaska Court system and Office of Public Advocacy.

In 2014, the Trust funded a study of the prevalence and characteristics of Trust beneficiaries who entered, exited, or resided in an Alaska Department of Corrections facility between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2012. The study identified over 60,000 unique individuals, of which 30 percent identified as Trust beneficiaries. Additionally, Trust beneficiaries accounted for more than 40 percent of the incarcerations each year, and their median length of a jail/prison stay was significantly longer than for non-Trust beneficiary offenders.

The Trust uses the Sequential Intercept Model as the foundation for making funding allocations and policy decisions. The Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) details how individuals with mental and substance use disorders come into contact with and move through the criminal justice system. The model identifies community resources and gaps in community services, law enforcement, initial Court Hearings/detainment, jails/courts, re-entry, and community corrections.

Alignment with the Comprehensive Mental Health Program Plan

The work of the Trust aligns with Strengthening the System: Alaska’s Comprehensive Integrated Mental Health Program Plan (comp plan), that was developed in a partnership between the Trust and the Department of Health and Social Services in coordination with community stakeholders. The Comp Plan identifies priorities for the next five years to inform planning and funding decisions to meet the needs of  Trust beneficiaries. The intent is to strengthen the system of care to allow a comprehensive approach that quickly meets their needs.

The disability justice focus’s work with partner to ensure the criminal justice system effectively accommodates the needs of victims and offenders who are Trust Beneficiaries aligns with these plan objectives:

Goal 7, Objective 7.3 Reduce the number of Trust beneficiaries entering or becoming involved with Alaska’s criminal justice system.

Goal 8, Objective 8.3 Enhance and expand access to clinical and case management resources for Alaskans who are incarcerated.


Heather Phelps, Program Officer