Diverting justice: how the law is failing people with disabilities

A friend and colleague, Linda Steele recently published a book, Disability, Criminal Justice and Law: Reconsidering Court Diversion, and I was disapponted to miss the launch of it on zoom yesterday! I have just started reading it, so will report back on that at a later date, but I already have no doubt it will be extremely thoughtful, technical, and groundbreaking.

It is timely for me, as earlier today, I was a speaker on a panel at a Side event during the 13th session of the Conference of States Parties to the CRPD, Our rights under threat as we grow old: A timely expert discussion on the intersection of disability and age. Ps. I will also share that video when it is available.

About Linda’s book and launch, which I quote from the UTS website;

Legal safeguards in place to keep people with disability – an overrepresented group in the criminal justice system – out of prison, are cementing injustice into the justice process.

Court diversions move people with disability from criminal justice systems and into mental health and disability services.

It sounds humane, but in effect has placed people who haven’t been sentenced, and sometimes not even tried and convicted of the criminal charges, into other forms of incarceration and harm.

What we think of as alternatives to incarceration are not. They’re not alternatives and in fact they are incarceration. 

Dr Liat Ben-Moshe

In her new book, Disability, Criminal Justice, and Law, Dr Linda Steele, Senior Lecturer at UTS Faculty of Law, argues that diverting people with disability from criminal justice systems undermines rather than achieves social justice. Medicalisation and criminalisation are two sides of the same coin, and both continue the oppression, control and punishment of disabled people.

Watch the launch of Linda’s book here.


Dr Linda Steele is a socio-legal researcher working at the intersections of disability, law and social justice. Her research is directed towards thinking more creatively and critically about how we engage with law in order to achieve social justice for the disability community.

Dr Liat Ben-Moshe is an Assistant Professor of Criminology, Law and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is an activist-scholar working at the intersection of incarceration, abolition and disability/madness.

El Gibbs is the Director, Media and Communications for People with Disability Australia. She is also an award-winning writer with a focus on disability and social issues, published widely.

Dr Claire Spivakovsky is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Melbourne. Much of Claire’s work focuses on the use of violent, restrictive and coercive practices in community settings such as group homes and schools.

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