Irish Penal Reform Trust

‘Out of the Shadows’: Women with learning disabilities and the criminal justice system

15th May 2019

The Prison Reform Trust, in collaboration with Key Ring Living Support, have published ‘Out of the Shadows’, a report that finds women with learning disabilities are at risk of becoming drawn into the criminal justice system due to failures to recognise their disability and a lack of appropriate support.

The report on the experiences of 24 women with learning disabilities in contact with, or on the edges of, the criminal justice system; and practitioners working within criminal justice, social care, and women’s services.

The report outlines 10 recommendations which should, if implemented, help to ensure the needs of women with learning disabilities are recognised and met, enabling them to lead healthy and productive lives.

Recommendations include:

  1. At every level – local, regional and national, senior leaders responsible for social care, policing and justice should ensure that women specific responses include provision for women with learning disabilities, and responses to people with learning disabilities include a women specific response.
  2. A system wide strategy for working with women with multiple needs, including women with learning disabilities, should be developed in every local authority area. The overall strategy and operational activity should involve multi-sector partners, and the involvement of women with multiple needs should be embedded and inform service provision.
  3. All women suspects should be screened by liaison and diversion services on entry into police custody, including for learning disability.

To read the report in full, visit the Prison Reform Trust website here.

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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