Joel’s work spans two distinct areas of disability law: ensuring that every child with a disability receives an appropriate education and protecting the rights of people with mental health conditions who are held in prison.
In 2015, Joel and his colleague Sarah Radcliffe investigated the treatment of inmates with serious mental health conditions held at the Oregon State Penitentiary. They co-authored “Behind the Eleventh Door”, an influential investigative report that revealed alarming treatment and conditions of confinement that undermined inmates’ basic humanity.
Their findings led the Oregon Department of Corrections to sign an agreement to improve conditions within four years and much of his current work is aimed at ensuring compliance with that agreement.
Joel has focused on special education issues for more than a decade. Most recently, he successfully worked to limit the ability of school districts to inappropriately shorten the school days of children whose behavior is driven by disabilities. In June 2017, Governor Brown signed legislation into law that ensures students who experience behavioral challenges caused by disability are not unnecessarily subjected to shortened school days.
Prior to his legal career, Joel taught troubled teens and trained a small cohort of special education teachers in New Hampshire. After passing the bar in 1994, he worked as a public defender in a major felony unit where he often defended individuals with serious mental health conditions. Joel has been a Portland resident since 1989.