High levels of psychosis, attempted suicide and cannabis use amongst prisoners with learning disabilities

man at fence

There continues to be some debate about the numbers of people with learning disabilities in UK prisons, partly due to the lack of consensus on definitions of learning disability in studies and different approaches to establishing the boundaries between learning difficulty, borderline learning disability and learning disability. The Bradley report  recommended amongst its key recommendations a study on the prevalence of people with learning disabilities in the criminal justice system.

In this study, the researchers looked at prison populations in England and Wales, and used the Quick Test scores equivalent to an IQ of ≤65 as there definition of learning disability.

Amongst the prisoners with learning disabilities found in this study, there was a high prevalence of probable psychosis, attempted suicide and cannabis use.

The researchers highlight the need for early identification of prisoners with learning disabilities and skilled interventions to help them cope better in the prison environment.

Psychiatric morbidity in prisoners with intellectual disabilities: analysis of prison survey data for England and Wales, Hassiotis et al, in British Journal of Psychiatry, 199, 2, 156-157

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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