The report, published last week, examined mental health issues in the Criminal Justice System. Research Autism welcomes its findings and highlights its own work on developing an autism screen to help identify and support prisoners with autism.
Geoffrey Maddrell, Chairman of Research Autism says:
"Research Autism welcomes Lord Bradley's findings and agrees that there is an urgent need to divert offenders with conditions such as autism, other mental health problems or learning disability, away from prison into other more appropriate interventions. It is for this very reason we are currently in the process of conducting our own research into the prison system in the UK to try and develop a 'screen' to help identify prisoners who have autism including those who may not have been previously diagnosed.
"Our findings in UK prisons thus far indicate that the number of people on the spectrum is not as large as we originally suspected; but that there are issues of real concern in that those on the spectrum in prison are not receiving the necessary support to help them whilst serving their sentence and subsequently once they have been released. In short, we do need to conduct further research into the exact number affected and what their circumstances are.
"In addition, there needs to be greater engagement by healthcare providers at police stations and more training for police officers. Autism is a complex condition, which can often be missed or misdiagnosed. It may be that when an individual is arrested, it is then discovered that they have autism and that the crime was perhaps unintentionally committed. We believe that people with autism deserve to receive the correct support to lead full, active and law abiding lives. One of our key aims in 2009 is to identify the number of adults with autism and to subsequently help them lead a better quality of life, which includes trying to prevent them from entering the criminal justice system.
"The annual cost of autism in the UK is just under £28 billion (1). Research Autism believes it is imperative to commission further ethical research, such as the prisons study, which helps make a difference to improving the quality of life for the 500,000 or so people affected by autism in the UK."
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Research Autism is the only UK charity that is solely focused on improving the quality of life of those on the autistic spectrum through the origination and funding of research into interventional treatments and therapies. The website www.researchautism.net holds a wealth of impartial information, which is referred to by families, those on the spectrum and health professionals across the UK and the rest of the world.
The Bradley Report - Lord Bradley's review of people with mental health problems or learning disabilities in the Criminal Justice System' is at www.dh.gov.uk The Written Ministerial Statement and Government's response is at www.justice.gov.uk The Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw announced a review into diversion of offenders away from prison on 5 December 2007, during his ministerial statement on Lord Carter's Review of Prisons. Lord Keith Bradley, former Home Office Minister, was appointed to Chair the review. Lord Bradley completed his review and reported his findings to government on 25 February. The report broadly recommends better assessment at the earliest possible opportunity, and improved continuity of care for people with mental health problems or learning disabilities in the criminal justice system. The report has made 82 recommendations, the overwhelming majority of which the government either fully accepts, or accepts in principle. However, Lord Bradley's report itself recognises many recommendations are longer term and will need further work to ensure that all implications are considered. A Health and Criminal National Programme Board will be set up to oversee the implementation of recommendations.