Scottish prison officials believe a large proportion of
prisoners in secure units have undiagnosed learning disabilities
and autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), writes Haroon
A survey carried out by the Scottish Development Centre for Mental
Health also found that national policies for the care of these
people were not consistently applied.
“The combination of complex individual needs and the lack
of clear service responsibility and policy focus may further
increase the risk of social exclusion for this vulnerable group of
people,” said the survey, commissioned by the Scottish
“This is the first time such a comprehensive study has
been undertaken and the findings provide vital information”,
said National Austistic Society in Scotland spokeswoman Shabnum
The survey examined anonymous data on 49 people with learning
problems, including Asperger’s syndrome, and ASDs sampled
from Scotland’s state hospital, 16 prisons, six secure
accommodation units for children, and 24 specialist in-patient
units for people with mental health problems.
The study only found a small number of people with learning
problems and ASD but said that prison authorities believed a larger
number had not been identified and assessed.
It found a significant number of these people were high risk
offenders but were also vulnerable to exploitation, bullying or
abuse from other residents.
Prison staff and managers felt that people with learning
disabilities and/or ASD “did not fit in easily with the core
business of the secure settings”.
In particular the respondents felt that women with mental health
problems had needs beyond those which mainstream secure units could