Prison Reform Trust: Prisoners with learning disabilities face abuse

Prisoners with learning disabilities suffer systematic and routine human rights abuses and discrimination, according to a study by the Prison Reform Trust.

The report, released today, follows a three-year investigation into the experiences of people with learning disabilities in custody. Researchers interviewed 154 prisoners identified by staff as having learning disabilities or learning difficulties.

rights in prison

It concluded that criminal justice services were failing to comply with legal duties to tackle disability discrimination and promote disability equality.

Areas of concern

The study listed four issues of greatest concern, which the PRT said required further investigation: maltreatment by the police and prison officers the lack of appropriate adults to support vulnerable suspects during police interviews defendants being unaware of what was happening to them during their trial and being unable to understand court decisions and prison information and regimes being inaccessible to them.

Identification of prisoners

Researchers highlighted the importance of criminal justice services identifying detainees with learning disabilities and difficulties and their individual support requirements, rather than relying on clinical diagnoses.

The study found prisoners identified as having learning disabilities faced much higher rates of restraint and segregation.

The report recommended that prisons adopt tools for screening people with learning disabilities that are being developed, including a Department of Health-backed system that will shortly be piloted at three England prisons. It said these needed to be used “properly, routinely and systematically”.

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