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Posts tagged: prisoners

Constructive Connections: the impact on children of parental involvement with the Justice System in Glasgow

23 June 2017

The best solutions for children and young people whose parents are involved within the criminal justice system will frequently be the best solutions for the whole community. Children and young people with positive relationships with their parents and family are likely to have better health and wellbeing outcomes (Glasgow Centre for Population Health, 2013). This chimes with a broad population approach to tackling health inequalities, recognising both the importance of family and community networks, and the inevitability that poverty, poor housing and unemployment are the background to much criminal behaviour (Whitehead and Dahlgren, 2007). Phillips and Dettlaff (2009) note that parental substance abuse, domestic violence, and extreme poverty are more common in households where a parent has been arrested and or sentenced to probation and that unemployment was a significant factor among caregivers who have experienced imprisonment. The factors are considered to affect both the short-term and long-term wellbeing of children.

Those who come into contact with the criminal justice system in Scotland, particularly Scottish prisoners, mainly come from the most deprived areas in the country (Houchin, 2005), and most adult family members of prisoners are unemployed, receiving benefits, and live in rented accommodation with low weekly incomes (Dickie, 2013). Whilst limited research in the UK has explored the impact on children of parental involvement across the criminal justice process, research in Australia highlights unintended consequences as being ‘children witnessing traumatic arrest processes, experiencing sudden and unanticipated separation from their parent/s, being displaced from home and struggling to maintain contact with their imprisoned parent’ (Flynn et al, 2015:2). GIRFEC – Getting It Right For Every Child (Scottish Government, 2012), now enshrined in Scottish legislation through the Children & Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, is a sound building block for supporting children whose parents come into contact with the criminal justice system. Although more specific recognition of the needs of the estimated 27,000 children affected each year by parental incarceration in Scotland (Scottish Government Justice Analytic Services, 2012) is merited, this research also recognises that attention needs to be paid to the experiences of children who have parents involved across the justice system (Phillips and Dettlaff, 2009). These families are often among the most complex cases child protective service agencies encounter (Phillips and Erkanli, 2008).

This current project (a collaboration between the University of Salford, the University of Huddersfield and Families Outside (Scotland)) funded by NHS Glasgow, is based on participatory and child-centred approaches to explore the impact of parental involvement in the justice system on children and young people, aged 8-18 from Glasgow. The research is being conducted with the best interests of children and young people at the forefront, with their own accounts being valued as much as any others, working with them rather than conducting research on them, and striving to ensure that their voice is promoted at every stage. The research also draws on principles of action research, emphasising the participatory engagement of all stakeholders as partners in a process of collaborative and reflective sense-making. The study design is based on family cases, with the child or young person as the index with their parents or carers and the professionals involved with the family as part of their world. The research adopts a very positive view about children, children’s rights and childhood, and the capacity of children to influence public policy and to shape their own solutions to the challenges they face.

Prof. Tony Long – Professor of Child and Family Health

Dr Kelly Lockwood – Lecturer in Criminology

The Impact of Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Criminal Justice System: A Growing Concern

17 January 2017

Clare AllelyOn Wednesday 19th Oct 2016 a 30 year old man took his own life at HMP Manchester (Strangeways), the young man who was discovered hanged in his cell was known to suffer from Asperger’s syndrome (http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/nicky-reilly-dead-strangeways-prison-12056877).

This led to inquiries to confirm whether deaths in custody of those known to have an autism spectrum disorder are collated in any way. The key organisations who collect this data, INQUEST, The Howard League for Penal Reform and The Prison Reform Trust were contacted regarding this type of prisoner. Each organisation replied that they do not hold this data. This illustrates the importance of exploring this area in detail.Despite prison interest and some prisons being involved with pilot work within the UK, Feltham remains the only prison in the UK to have Autism Accreditation and is Moitherefore, ‘autism friendly’. Her Majesty’s Young Offenders Institute (HMYOI) Feltham is the first prison or young offender institution in the UK to be awarded Autism Accreditation (http://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/media-centre/news/2016-02-25-first-autism-accredited-prison.aspx). For over two years, Feltham has been working with The National Autistic Society (NAS) in order to improve the way they support offenders with ASD. The aim of Accreditation is to improve autism practice across all areas of prison life: admission, prison staff training, behaviour management and the physical environment, with the long-term aim of tackling issues frequently experienced by prisoners with ASD and ultimately reducing the risk of recidivism in this subgroup.

The urgency of further research and recognition of Asperger’s and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) in the criminal justice process is emphasised by studies which have found that the severity of ASD traits is a risk factor for suicidality and common mental health issues in prisoners (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S092493381530674X).

In the North West of England there are 16 prisons with a total operational capacity of 12,543. Let’s say that the prevalence figure of autism spectrum disorders is at least the same as that found in the general population (1%) then there are at least 125 prisoners in prisons in the North West of England alone who are on the spectrum.

Given that there are a number of studies suggesting that the prevalence of ASD is higher in the prison population when compared to the general population, it highlights the urgent need for more prisons to gain Autism Accreditation and for further research to gain more of an understanding the specific needs of inmates with ASD and prison staffs knowledge of the disorder.

Recognising the importance of research in this field, lecturers at the University of Salford, Dr Clare Allely and Dr Toni Wood, have combined their expertise in a unique project which will involve questionnaires and semi-structured interviews of a broad section of prison staff as well as inmates with ASD with the aim of increasing our understanding of what areas could be improved on and, crucially, to assist in the development of a toolkit for prison staff in order to try and increase the identification, recognition and understanding of ASD within the prison environment.

Our project addresses a real gap in the research. Research looking at these issues is sparse (http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/JIDOB-06-2015-0014). Only one study has explored prison staffs’ knowledge and understanding of ASD (http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bild/gap/2009/00000010/00000001/art00005) but they all agree that many individuals with ASD do not receive the appropriate care that they need.

This issue of a lack of awareness and recognition of ASD occurs even earlier in the criminal justice process – police interview and court proceedings (Cooper & Allely, 2016; Cooper, Berryessa, & Allely, 2016). Concern has been raised in the literature regarding how juries and judges handle cases involving defendants with ASD.

The modest amount of research on judicial perceptions or decision making regarding defendants with ASD suggests that judges have limited understanding and familiarity with ASD (Freckelton & List, 2009). This is particularly concerning considering that there is some indication in the literature that jurors may hold misconceptions and stigmatising beliefs about ASD which may have a negative impact on the juror’s decision regarding a defendant with ASD.

Some behaviours exhibited by defendants with ASD can be viewed negatively if not understood in the context of the defendant’s condition. Freckelton (2013) detailed the case of State v Burr, 2007 where the defendant, Burr, appeared in court with a bag draped over his head. When asked a question, he would respond with questions from the Book of Deuteronomy. The Book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Torah (a section of the Hebrew Bible) and the Christian Old Testament. In another case, R v Sultan [2008] EWCA, the Court of Appeal concluded that expert evidence on the defendant’s autism spectrum condition ‘might have gone some way to explain to the jury why the appellant was behaving so oddly at trial, such as reading a book during [the complainant’s] evidence’ (paragraph 34).

As researchers, we aim to increase recognition of this area with the hope that more prisons in the UK will obtain Autism Accreditation and that there is increased awareness of ASD as early as possible in the criminal justice process.

Dr Clare Allely

Lecturer in Psychology, University of Salford

Affiliate member of the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre. University of Gothenburg.

Dr Toni Wood

Lecturer in Criminology, University of Salford

References

Al-Attar, Z. (2016). Autism & Terrorism Links – Fact or Fiction? 15th International Conference on the Care and Treatment of Offenders with an Intellectual and/or Developmental Disability. National Autistic Society. 19-20th April 2016.

Cooper, P., & Allely, C. S. (2016). The Curious Incident of the Man in The Bank: Procedural Fairness and a Defendant with Asperger’s Syndrome. Criminal Law and Justice Weekly, 180 (35), pp. 632-634. http://bit.ly/2cQMnQJ

Cooper, P., Berryessa, C. M., & Allely, C. S. (2016). Understanding what the Defendant with Asperger’s Syndrome Understood: Effective use of expert evidence to inform jurors and judges. Criminal Law and Justice Weekly, 180 (44), pp. 792-794. http://www.criminallawandjustice.co.uk/

See here for related article by the same authors: http://theconversation.com/britains-criminal-justice-system-doesnt-know-what-to-do-about-autism-68996

Unlocking the Knowledge and Experience of Autism in the Prison: A Staff and Inmate Perspective

11 July 2016

Clare AllelyHer Majesty’s Young Offenders Institute (HMYOI) Feltham is the first prison or young offender institution in the country to be awarded Autism Accreditation. Her Majesty’s Young Offenders Institute (HMYOI) Feltham has been working with The National Autistic Society (NAS) for over two years to improve the way they support offenders with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who are in custody. The aim of Accreditation is to improve autism practice across all areas of prison life, including: admission, prison staff training, behaviour management and the physical environment, with the long term aim of tackling issues often faced by prisoners with ASD and ultimately reducing the risk of recidivism in this group.

Clare Hughes, Criminal Justice Manager for Autism Accreditation, The National Autistic Society, said: “We’re delighted to award Feltham with Autism Accreditation and that the Minister could be here to mark this important moment”.

Clare Hughes goes on to highlight a number of important issues: “Autistic people can end up in the prison system, just like anyone else. But their experience is often more traumatic because their additional needs aren’t recognised and met. This pilot has made clear that improved understanding of autism among prison staff, simple adjustments and better support can address many of these issues and improve prison life for prisoners and staff alike” (http://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/media-centre/news/2016-02-25-first-autism-accredited-prison.aspx).

However, despite prison interest and some prisons being involved with pilot work within the UK, Feltham remains the only prison in the UK to have Autism Accreditation. Given that there are a number of studies suggesting that the prevalence of ASD is higher in the prison population when compared to the general population (e.g., Scragg & Shah, 1994), it highlights the urgent need for more prisons to gain Autism Accreditation and for further research to gain more of an understanding the specific needs of inmates with ASD and prison staffs knowledge of the disorder.

Recognising the importance of research in this field, lecturers at the University of Salford, Dr Clare Allely and Dr Toni Wood, have combined their expertise in a unique project which will involve questionnaires and semi-structured interviews of a broad section of prison staff as well as inmates with ASD with the aim of increasing our understanding of what areas could be improved on and, crucially, to assist in the development of a toolkit for prison staff in order to try and increase the identification, recognition and understanding of ASD within the prison environment.

Our project addresses a real gap in the research. To date, the research looking at these issues is sparse. In fact, to date, there has only been one study which has explored prison staffs’ knowledge and understanding of ASD (McAdam, 2009). McAdam (2009) identified five prisoners with a diagnosis of an ASD (four with a diagnosis of AS and one with autism) over six months in one of the largest prisons in England. Two of the five seemed to need little support but the other three struggled significantly with the prison environment. Overall, McAdam (2009) emphasised that in prison, many individuals with ASD do not receive the appropriate care that they need. This is an important issue that needs to be addressed.

The importance of projects such as the one by Dr Toni Wood and Dr Clare Allely cannot be stressed enough when you read the literature which suggests that individuals with ASD are more vulnerable to bullying and social isolation within the prison environment (Allely, 2015a). In a review of the literature published last year, Allely (2015b) identified only four studies which investigated the experience of individuals with ASD in the prison. While important and increasing the awareness of this area, all four studies involved case studies and small samples.

The case reports reviewed by Allely (2015b) clearly highlighted that inmates with ASDs can experience numerous difficulties within the prison environment such as poor relationships with prison staff and other inmates. Specifically it is important to bear in mind that the environment is experienced as particularly stressful, distressing and intense for many individuals with ASD compared to their neuro-typical fellow inmates. These findings are also supported in another review which was published around the same time (Robertson & McGillivray, 2015).

However, as highlighted by Dr Clare Allely and Dr Toni Wood, there is a significant lack of empirical research investigating the experiences of individuals with ASD in the prison environment and prison staffs’ knowledge and understanding of the disorder. Our aim is that the findings from this project, and the development of the toolkit, will help inform appropriate and effective provisions, interventions and support for individuals with ASD in prison. Additionally, to increase awareness and identification of individuals with ASD in the prison environment (McCarthy, Chaplin, Underwood, Forrester, Hayward et al., 2015a; Underwood, McCarthy, Chaplin, Forrester, Mills, & Murphy, 2016). Ultimately, we hope to increase recognition of this area with the hope that more prisons in the UK will seek Autism Accreditation.

The urgency of further research is further emphasised by a number of studies which have shown that the severity of ASD traits is a risk factor for suicidality and common mental health issues in prison inmates (McCarthy, Underwood, Hayward, Chaplin, Forrester, Mills, & Murphy, 2015b).

The researchers on this project state that “It is hoped that this project is just the beginning of much more research in this relatively neglected area that we will be working on in years to come”. 

References

Allely, C. S. (2015a). Autism spectrum disorders in the criminal justice system: police interviewing, the courtroom and the prison environment. Recent Advances in Autism, 1-13.

Allely, C. S. (2015b). Experiences of prison inmates with autism spectrum disorders and the knowledge and understanding of the spectrum amongst prison staff: a review. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, 6(2), 55-67.

Lewis, A., Pritchett, R., Hughes, C., & Turner, K. (2015). Development and implementation of autism standards for prisons. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, 6(2), 68-80.

McAdam, P. (2009). Knowledge and understanding of the autism spectrum amongst prison staff. Good Autism Practice (GAP), 10(1), 19-25.

McCarthy, J., Chaplin, E., Underwood, L., Forrester, A., Hayward, H., Sabet, J., … & Murphy, D. (2015a). Screening and diagnostic assessment of neurodevelopmental disorders in a male prison. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, 6(2), 102-111.

McCarthy, J., Underwood, L. I. S. A., Hayward, H., Chaplin, E., Forrester, A., Mills, R., & Murphy, D. (2015b). Autism Spectrum Disorder and Mental Health Problems Among Prisoners. European Psychiatry, 30, 864.

Robertson, C. E., & McGillivray, J. A. (2015). Autism behind bars: a review of the research literature and discussion of key issues. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 26(6), 719-736.

Scragg, P., & Shah, A. (1994). Prevalence of Asperger’s syndrome in a secure hospital. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 165(5), 679-682.

Underwood, L., McCarthy, J., Chaplin, E., Forrester, A., Mills, R., & Murphy, D. (2016). Autism spectrum disorder traits among prisoners. Advances in Autism, 2(3).

Clare Allely Lecturer in Psychology