People with mental illness experience longer incarceration and higher rates of homelessness/ unemployment upon release.

About Us

The DC Jail and Prison Advocacy Project (JPAP) is a project within Disability Rights DC (DRDC) under University Legal Services. Our team assists formerly incarcerated residents of DC who are diagnosed with psychiatric disabilities by advocating for them during their reentry. We use an evidence-based, client-centered approach to reentry for individuals with serious mental illness, intellectual disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, and co-occurring substance use disorders. These individuals have significant histories of trauma, poverty, victimization, criminal system involvement, and more. Of our clients, 90% are chronically homeless and over 90% are people of color--overwhelmingly African American in a city where just under half the population is African American.  


JPAP was founded in 2007 to address the unique reentry needs of DC residents with psychiatric disabilities, including trauma-informed and trauma-specific services. Since then, we have expanded our services to include peer support and navigation while raising awareness about the false distinction between perpetrators and victims of crime. All of our clients have been victims of crime at least once in their lives, and multiple times in most cases.


JPAP Reentry Advocates (with the assistance of the Disability Benefits Advocate) provide intensive case management, including applications for disability benefits, linkage with community mental health and addiction treatment providers, identifying trauma-based treatment, and arranging for or applying for transitional housing prior to their release from jail and prison. JPAP staff work to help clients secure more permanent housing, including helping clients navigate the complex process for obtaining vouchers.


JPAP works with public agencies, including the DC Department of Behavioral Health (DBH), the DC Department of Corrections (DOC), the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC), the federal supervision agency for DC (the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency or CSOSA), and the Social Security Administration (SSA) and a network of community-based organizations to ensure post-release community and supervision services are identified and engaged prior to release, if possible, and to remove obstacles commonly faced by returning citizens with psychiatric disabilities. We hold providers accountable for supplying individualized services and supports that accommodate each person’s disabilities.


JPAP takes the information we learn from individual cases to advocate for systemic reform. For instance, we brought trauma-informed training into the DC Jail and successfully advocated for the creation of a men’s Mental Health Step Down Unit (MHSDU). The MHSDU allows people to move from the acute mental health unit to a place where they can enjoy group activities, such as social skills, trauma support, yoga, and mindfulness. The MHSDU is intended to prepare men for release, transfer to the general population or the Federal Bureau of Prisons, or as an alternative to the general population for those individuals who feel more comfortable with the MHSDU programming. JPAP has special access to the jail through DRDC’s Protection and Advocacy access authority outlined in federal law. We use our ability to go on the units to conduct outreach and advocate for appropriate services for people with psychiatric disabilities.


JPAP newsletters share important updates about our clients and team, as well as policy updates that affect our work.  Sign up for our mailing list to be the first to access our new newsletters! 

Below are the 2022 newsletters so far:

March 2022

June 2022

July 2022

October 2022

Fact Sheet

People We Serve

The DC Jail and Prison Advocacy Project serves DC residents who meet all of the following criteria:  

(1)  have been diagnosed with a significant mental illness, intellectual disability or traumatic brain injury as determined by a mental health professional;

(2) have been incarcerated at the DC Central Detention Facility, Correctional Treatment Facility (often referred to collectively as the DC Jail), within the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) or in a halfway house; and 

(3) are preferably four to six months prior to release for reentry assistance or who are currently incarcerated and need assistance with obtaining medication or advocating for other issues related to their psychiatric disabilities.

NOTE: Unfortunately, we cannot represent everyone in need. Requests for assistance are assessed on a case-by-case basis depending on available resources. We give priority to individuals who will be homeless at the time of release. If we are not able to take your case, we will try to provide you with information and/or refer you to another organization.

How To Request Services

To request DC Jail and Prison  Advocacy assistance for yourself or someone you know, call (202) 547-4747 x135 or 1-877-221-4638 to speak with the Intake Specialist, or e-mail The office is located at 220 I Street, N.E., Suite 130, Washington, D.C. 20002. Appointments are strongly recommended. Incarcerated individuals may request our services through their counselor or case manager or may write directly to us at the above address.

For more information about the DC Jail and Prison Advocacy Project, please contact:
Tammy Seltzer, Director
DC Jail and Prison Advocacy Project



Thank you to our donors.

DC Bar Foundation

The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation

Qlarant Foundation

The Rotary Foundation of Washington, DC

DC Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants

Georgetown University School of Law

Greater Washington Community Foundation - COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund


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