Does prison deliver for prisoners with learning disabilities? Presenters: Mark Perks, Natasha Cock, Nick Pape 29th October 2013
Statistics • 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!