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Prisoners' Voices: Experiences of the Criminal Justice System by Prisoners With Learning Disabilities and Difficulties

NCJ Number
Jenny Talbot
Date Published
111 pages
This report presents the findings of a major British survey of prisoners with learning disabilities and learning difficulties in order to determine their experiences in the criminal justice system, and recommendations are offered for addressing the difficulties they face.
Prisoners with learning disabilities were almost twice as likely as the comparison group to have been unemployed prior to their arrest. Over half had attended a special school; they were three times more likely than the comparison group to have been excluded from school. Less than one-third of the learning-disabled offenders received support from an appropriate adult during the police interview, and half said they did not know what would happen after they had been charged. A few reported they had been beaten or handled roughly by the police and felt manipulated into agreeing to a police interview without support. In court, over a fifth of the learning-disabled offenders did not know why they were in court or what law they had violated. While in prison, most had difficulty reading and understanding prison information, which often meant they did not fully understanding what was expected of them. They also had difficulties in communicating with staff and other inmates; however, over half of the learning-disabled inmates said they attended education classes and those with possible learning or borderline learning disabilities were the most likely to participate in such classes. Nine recommendations are offered in this report. They pertain to criminal justice agencies' compliance with disability and human rights legislation, the identification of persons with learning disabilities, information sharing about such offenders among all agencies involved in criminal justice processing, special accommodations for vocational training, alternatives to custody, and the development of national standards for health and social service provision for learning-disabled individuals. 10 appendixes that include references, profiles of interviewed prisoners, and a screening tool