Learning disability and challenges in male prisons: programme screening evaluation

Date03 December 2019
Published date03 December 2019
AuthorHelen Wakeling,Laura Ramsay
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Learning & intellectual disabilities,Offending behaviour,Sociology,Sociology of crime & law,Deviant behaviour,Education,Special education/gifted education,Emotional/behavioural disorders
Learning disability and challenges in male
prisons: programme screening evaluation
Helen Wakeling and Laura Ramsay
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to validate the learning screening tool (LST) and the adapted
functioning checklist-revised (AFC-R)as screening tools to aid programme allocation,and to investigate
whether programme decision makers were using the tools as per the guidance provided by HMPPS
Design/methodology/approach LST and AFC-R data were gathered for 555 men who had been
assessed for programmesbetween 2015 and 2018 across eight prisons and oneprobation area. WAIS-
IV IQ datawere also gathered if completed.
Findings The findings providesupport for the use of the LST, and AFC-R in helping to make decisions
about programme allocation. The LST and AFC-R correlate well with each other, and a measure of
intellectual functioning (WAIS-IV). Those who were allocated to learning disability or challenges (LDC)
programmes scored higher on the LST (greater problems) and lower on the AFC-R (lower functioning)
compared to those allocated to mainstream programmes. The LST had adequatepredictive validity. In
the majority of cases, the correct procedures were followed in terms of using the tools for programme
Research limitations/implications The sample sizefor examining the relationships betweenall three
tools was limited. The research was also unable to take into consideration the clinical decision making
involvedin how the tools were interpreted.
Originality/value This research contributes to the growing evidence about the effective use of LDC
screeningtools in forensic settings.
Keywords Learning disability, Prison, Assessment, Intellectual disability, Screening,
Offending behaviour programmes
Paper type Research paper
Providing equality of opportunity for individuals in prison to engage in rehabilitative efforts,
for both self-reform and public protection is highly important. Thus, early identification of
individuals who have learning disabilities (LD) (Bradley, 2009) is vital. This helps to ensure
that individuals with LD have access to the support services they require, such as
education, employment and offending behaviour programmes designed to meet their
specific needs (see Ramsay, in press for a detailed discussion). Knowledge of an
individual’s LD should assist staff and other key professionals such as the Parole Board in
tailoring their communication, to ensure accessibility of understanding for the individual.
However, the challenges of identifying individuals in prison, who have LD continues to be
acknowledged (Board et al., 2015;vanEsch et al., 2018). Hayes (2007) summarised a
number of these challenges including uncertainty around the prevalence of LD and lack of
knowledge about LD across the criminal justice system (CJS). Hayes outlined the impact
this can have, cumulating in “inappropriate treatment of this group” (p. 147). An additional
challenge is understanding how LD is defined, which impacts on both assessment
measures, and interpretationof such measures.
Helen Wakeling is based at
the Evidence Based
Practice Team, Her
Majesty’s Prison and
Probation Service, London,
Laura Ramsay is based at
HMP Downview, Her
Majesty’s Prison and
Probation Service, London,
Received 11 September 2019
Revised 4 November 2019
Accepted 4 November 2019
DOI 10.1108/JIDOB-09-2019-0017 VOL. 11 NO. 1 2020, pp. 49-59, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2050-8824 jJOURNAL OF INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES AND OFFENDING BEHAVIOUR jPAGE 49

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