Your web browser is outdated and may be insecure

The RCN recommends using an updated browser such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome

man and woman standing outside

People with learning disabilities and criminal justice health

It is believed that up to 30 per cent of people in prison have a learning difficulty or disability, and around 7 per cent will have an IQ score below 70 (Prison Reform Trust, 2008). 

The criminal justice system will often try and divert people with learning disabilities away from the criminal justice routes. This is to reflect that often crimes are not committed with criminal intent and health and social care services will be more beneficial than courts and prisons in reducing the risk of reoffending. 

Some prisons have specific learning disability services and employ learning disability nurses. Criminal justice health liaison and diversion schemes are often run by nurses and include support for people with learning disabilities. Some people may be diverted from the criminal justice service to a secure mental health hospital under the Mental Health Act with Ministry of Justice restrictions. 

Standard offence related interventions are often not suitable for people with learning disabilities. There are some good examples of these interventions being successfully adapted for people with learning disabilities.


Useful links

Department of Health (2011) Staying Positive: The Criminal Justice System and Learning Disabilities. Easy Read Information for people with Learning Disabilities and Learning Difficulties 

Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities. Criminal justice system

G4S. HMP Parc raises standards as first Welsh prison to receive an autism accreditation

National Autistic Society. Criminal Justice - a guide for police officers and professionals

Royal College of Psychiatrists (2014) Forensic care pathways for adults with intellectual disability involved with the criminal justice system

SOLD Network. SOLD is a national network committed to improving support for people who have difficulty with communication and understanding, and are at risk of, accused, or convicted of committing a crime.

University of Kent. Sex offender Treatment Services Collaborative. SOTSEC-ID is a collaborative group of professionals engaged in providing group treatment to men with intellectual disabilities who are at risk of sexual offending.

Page last updated - 29/01/2024