Civil Rights

We work to protect and advance the civil rights of persons with disabilities.Our agency works to protect and advance the civil rights of people with disabilities, helps people with disabilities when their rights have been violated and seeks to ensure that people with disabilities have access to information about their rights.

Every individual is guaranteed certain rights under the United States Constitution, the Utah Constitution and other laws.  Some of these rights include:

  • The right to reasonably safe conditions of confinement, including access to adequate medical care and rehabilitation services
  • The right to refuse medication and unwanted medical treatment
  • The right to live in the most integrated setting

Some examples of our work in the area of protection and civil rights include:

  • Investigating allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation of people with disabilities
  • Ensuring that restraint and seclusion are only used in compliance with laws, regulations and best practices
  • Ensuring that the rights of individuals with disabilities who come into contact with law enforcement are protected
  • Ensuring that individuals with disabilities who are confined in jails and prisons are treated humanely and that their constitutional rights are respected

Updates and additional information:

On September 28, 2020, The Disability Law Center began investigating the conditions of Youth Residential Treatment Facilities (YRTFs) in Utah. As the process of collecting data begins, DLC is calling for the wider community to offer input by completing a survey regarding experiences at YRTFs. Based on complaints, incident reports, resident/patient advocate referrals, or survey results from facility licensing, and as determined by the team, the DLC monitors long term care facilities and institutions for serious abuse or neglect, and provides legally-based advocacy to residents of these facilities who are allegedly being seriously abused or neglected.

It is the mission of the Disability Law Center to enforce and strengthen laws that protect the opportunities, choices and legal rights of people with disabilities in Utah. Disability Law Center’s long-term goals for this ongoing investigation are:

  • Investigate incidents of abuse and neglect in YRTFs
  • Investigate areas where YRTFs routinely fail to meet a standard of care which may lead, or has led, to abuse or neglect
  • Diagnose the causes for these failures
  • Investigate the regulatory and oversight scheme
  • Identify necessary improvements to regulation and oversight

Wide participation in this survey will help the team collect knowledge of the resident experience in a YRTF, and to develop better monitoring practices. Find the DLC’s survey regarding Utah YRTFs through the link here: 

Survey – Youth Residential Treatment Facilities

Press Release – Investigating Youth Residential Treatment Facilities

On Tuesday, September 8, 2015, the Disability Law Center (DLC) and a group of individual plaintiffs, represented by DLC attorneys and the law firm of Snell & Wilmer LLP, filed a class action lawsuit against Utah’s Department of Human Services (DHS), Division of Substance Abuse & Mental Health (DSAMH), and the Utah State Hospital (USH), charging that these state entities are systematically forcing vulnerable criminal defendants to languish in jail while waiting months to be transferred to USH for treatment. The suit alleges that the state hospital system’s inability to provide incompetent criminal defendants with court-ordered restoration treatment within a reasonable time frame violates their due process rights.

Press Release: Disability Law Center sues state hospital system for failing criminal defendants with mental illness

Complaint: Read the full Competency Restoration complaint here

On June 12, 2017, the Utah Department of Human Services (DHS) entered into a settlement agreement with the Disability Law Center (DLC) on behalf of individuals in the criminal justice system waiting to receive mental health restoration services to become competent to stand trial. The court approved the Settlement Agreement on July 11, 2017. As a result of this agreement, the parties agreed to continue the state’s innovative community-based Outreach Program, started in 2016, which treats low-risk forensic patients in the community to lessen the wait time for a bed at the Hospital. The Hospital will also move forward with establishing and operating a $3 million-funded jail-based unit with Salt Lake County, which is expected to serve more on the waitlist within agreed-upon timeframes.

Press Release: Officials Sign Class Action Settlement Agreement to Reduce Wait Time for Those Needing Mental Health Services to Stand Trial

Salt Lake Tribune Article: Judge signs off on agreement to speed treatment for Utah inmates deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial 

View Civil Rights Resources

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