News story

Prisons seeking National Autistic Society help to improve support for prisoners

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Ministry of Justice has taken a significant step to improve the rehabilitation support for prisoners with autism.

At the start of World Autism Week, which runs from 27 March 2015 to 2 April 2015, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has taken a significant step to improve the rehabilitation support for prisoners with autism.

Prisons and young offender institutes in England and Wales have been encouraged to apply for the National Autistic Society’s (NAS) Autism accreditation. The accreditation is awarded through a set of locally-agreed and developed standards that the prison and its services adhere to. These include standards for the education provider, primary care and mental health provider as well as prison staff.

Prisons Minister, Andrew Selous, commented:

Having seen the good work that is going on at HMYOI Feltham, and the enthusiasm of the staff there, I am keen to further promote the use of the NAS accreditation across the prison estate.

Taking account of the specific needs of prisoners with autism is an important part of the accreditation and, in many cases, a few simple adjustments can make a difference.

Clare Hughes, Criminal Justice Co-ordinator at NAS, said:

The NAS is very pleased that MOJ has taken this important and tangible step to improving autism practice and expertise in prisons.

When people with autism end up in the prison system, it can be a traumatic experience if their particular needs aren’t understood. NAS Autism Accreditation is a recognised quality standard, with a clear framework to help institutions and services work systematically towards good quality autism practice. We look forward to many prisons taking up the invitation from the Minister to follow HMYOI Feltham’s lead and work towards Autism Accreditation.

Autism (including Asperger syndrome) is a serious lifelong, disabling condition affecting social behaviour and communication. An offender in custody with autism can have specific difficulties which may impact on their successful rehabilitation. Prison staff and providers working in prisons with a better understanding of the condition are more equipped to make a positive difference.

Feltham is working towards achieving National Autistic Society accreditation later this year, and will be followed by Parc and Wakefield prisons.