Does prison deliver for prisoners with learning disabilities
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Does prison deliver for prisoners with learning disabilities?. Presenters: Mark Perks, Natasha Cock, Nick Pape 29 th October 2013. Statistics. 2% of general population have a learning disability (Mencap, 2013)

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Does prison deliver for prisoners with learning disabilities?

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Does prison deliver for prisoners with learning disabilities?

Presenters: Mark Perks, Natasha Cock, Nick Pape

29th October 2013


  • 2% of general population have a learning disability (Mencap, 2013)

  • 20 – 30% of offenders have learning difficulties and disabilities (No one knows , Louks, 2007)

  • 25% of prisoners have an IQ of less than 80. (Mottram, 2007)

  • 35% of adult offenders have speaking or listening skills below those expected of a competent 11 year old. (Davies et al, 2004)

Definition of a learning disability

  • The term learning disability is a convenient label that would indicate that an individual may need additional support.

  • What can be unhelpful:

    • Rigid thinking regarding IQ levels and mental ages

    • Thinking that restricts a person to just their learning disability

    • Stigma of new label (what does it mean!)

Case study – Gill’s experience

  • Set a 3 year tariff

  • Served well over twice his sentence

Case Study - Nick’s experience

  • Going through prison

  • What helped

  • What didn’t help

  • What could be done differently

“At first it was horrible. I couldn’t write to my family, I couldn’t fill the sheets in (visiting forms) so my family wouldn’t be able to visit and nobody explained it to me.”

(Prisoners voices)

Mencap’s View

  • Poor identification of learning disabilities in the criminal justice system

  • Learning disabilities are not identified early enough in the system and where this is identified it does not travel within the CJS

  • Learning disability screening questionnaires can be useful but with caution:

    • It creates a diagnostic tool for a non-clinical setting,

    • It can create stigma,

    • It is not clear how follow up then happens with prisoners

Mencap’s View

  • Regular and specific learning disability awareness training should be provided for all prison staff

  • Training should include the wider issue of communication difficulties

  • Providing accessible communication is very important

  • There are significant health inequalities for prisoners with a learning disability that need to be addressed

  • Transitions of prisoners are often seen as transfersand the correct support is not in place

Raising Your Game

  • Pilot project Mencap, ICAN and Nacro funded by the Big Lottery

  • Working with 14 – 25 year olds at risk of offending

  • Working in 6 regions across England

  • YOTs, YOIs, probation trusts, police, courts and educational settings.

Communication issues

  • Safe answers

  • Reluctance to offer criticism

  • Level of language

  • Times and dates

Questions for the future

  • How are staff being trained on learning disabilities and communication difficulties?

  • If a diagnostic tool is used, how will prisoners be supported if they find our they have a learning disability?

  • Are there varied and interesting educational courses accessible below a an IQ level of 80?

  • How accessible is all prison communication, including verbal and written?

Questions for the future

  • How can transitions to life outside be improved for prisoners with a learning disability?

  • What is the cultural view of disabilities within the prison?

  • How to ensure the individual as a whole and their needs are understood?

One last thing on communication

If you get it right for someone with learning disability it will be right for everybody!

Any Questions?

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