Characteristics of prisoners with neurodevelopmental disorders and difficulties

J. Mccarthy*, E. Chaplin, L. Underwood, A. Forrester, H. Hayward, J. Sabet, S. Young, P. Asherson, R. Mills, D. Murphy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Previous studies have found high rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and intellectual disability (ID) within the criminal justice system (CJS). However, little is understood about prisoners with neurodevelopmental disorders and difficulties (NDD) or their needs. This study aimed to identify prisoners with NDD and compare their characteristics with prisoners without NDD on a range of socio-demographic and social functioning measures. Method: This was a descriptive, cross-sectional study carried out using face-to-face interviews with 240 participants in a London Category C prison. Standardised tools were used to assess prisoners for ADHD, ASD and ID. Results: The study identified 87 prisoners who screened positive for one or more type of NDD. Participants with NDD were significantly younger and more likely to be single [(odds ratio) OR=2.1], homeless (OR=3.4) or unemployed (OR=2.6) before they came into prison. They also had poorer educational achievements that those without NDD. Over 80% of those with NDD had a previous conviction or imprisonment. Conclusions: The findings confirm the presence of significant numbers of people with NDD in a male prison. Services across the CJS are required for this group; specifically, there is a need for raised awareness among those working in the CJS to improve the recognition of offenders with NDD. Services in the community need to work with individuals with NDD who are at risk of offending, targeting those who are homeless, unemployed and have poor employment opportunities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-206
JournalJournal of Intellectual Disability Research
Issue number3
Early online date21 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016


  • ADHD
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Forensic
  • Intellectual disability
  • Prison


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