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Prisoner's Voices: Experiences of the Criminal Justice System by Prisoners with Learning Disabilities and Difficulties

NCJ Number
Jenny Talbot
Date Published
111 pages
This study by Prison Reform Trust in the United Kingdom examined the experiences of prisoners with learning disabilities and learning difficulties while involved with the country's criminal justice system.
This study survey prisoners with learning disabilities or difficulties about their experiences with the criminal justice system in the United Kingdom, specifically England and Wales. Findings from the survey include the following: before being arrested, prisoners with learning disabilities or difficulties were almost twice as likely to be unemployed as the comparison group; less than one third of these prisoners received support from an appropriate adult during police interviews and half of the prisoners reported not knowing what would happen to them once they had been charged; over 20 percent reported not understanding court proceedings, while some didn't even know what they had done wrong; and while in prison, a majority of the prisoners had difficulty reading and understanding prison information, filling in prison forms, and making themselves understood. The primary aim of this study was to document the experiences of prisoners with learning difficulties or disabilities throughout their involvement with the criminal justice system in order to highlight areas for improvement. Data for the study were obtained from a survey of 173 prisoners of which 34 had possible learning or borderline learning disabilities, while another 73 were identified as likely to experience difficulties due to lower level verbal comprehension skills. The findings from the study identified a set of themes and issues requiring further evaluation: the existence of disability discrimination and possible human rights abuses; identifying offenders with learning disabilities or difficulties; a needs-led approach for collaborative multi-agency work; the need for workforce development; diversion from the criminal justice system of people with learning disabilities; and the need to identify children with learning difficulties or disabilities and provide better educational experiences. Appendixes and references