Did you know that a statistically significant number of people in prison in the UK are likely to be on the autism spectrum? That prior to arriving in prison, people with learning disabilities are not screened or identified in any way? According to the Prison Reform Trust
“Almost 6,000 men, women and children with an IQ of less than 70 are locked up in the UK’s prisons at any one time according to new research released today (Feb. 17 2007) , placing an authoritative figure for the first time on a vast hidden problem.
Such low IQs will affect an individual’s ability to cope with prison life and will hinder communication and understanding. Many will also be learning disabled. A further quarter of the prison population has an IQ of less than 80 and may also have a border-line learning disability or specific learning difficulties.
Despite the huge prevalence of learning disabilities and learning difficulties amongst those held in custody, there is no routine screening or assessment of people in prison to identify their needs properly. People with learning disabilities and difficulties are unlikely to benefit, and may be excluded, from programmes designed to stop re-offending. Many are victimised and bullied in prison.”
In her groundbreaking work No One Knows – Offenders with Learning Difficulties and Learning Disabilities (2006), Dr. Nancy Loucks outlines the scale of the problem in which she estimates that 20%-30% “have learning difficulties or learning disabilities that interfere with their ability to cope within the criminal justice system.” This important work underscores the need for real reform, but especially underscores the need for awareness training to aid in identifying and supporting people in the criminal justice system when they do present with learning and developmental disabilities. The need for training will be ongoing, due to staff turnover and an ever-changing legislative landscape.