- Dr Ye In (Jane) Hwang, Postdoctoral Research Fellow; Justice Health Research Program (JHRP), School of Population Health, UNSW Sydney
- Mr Julian Trofimovs, Data Analyst & PhD Candidate; Department of Developmental Disability Neuropsychiatry (3DN), School of Psychiatry, UNSW Sydney
- Dr Preeyaporn Srasuebkul, Senior Research Fellow; Department of Developmental Disability Neuropsychiatry (3DN), School of Psychiatry, UNSW Sydney
- Dr Samuel Arnold, Lecturer; Department of Developmental Disability Neuropsychiatry (3DN), School of Psychiatry, UNSW Sydney
- Dr Rebecca Reeve, Senior Research Fellow; Yuwaya Ngarra-li Partnership, Dharriwaa Elders Group, Walgett NSW & UNSW Sydney
- Ms Frederikke Jensen, Advocacy Manager, Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability (VALID), Bendigo Victoria
- 2x Lived Experience Consultants – Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability (VALID), Melbourne Victoria
- Dr Phillip Snoyman, Director of Diversity and Responsivity at Corrective Services NSW, NSW Department of Communities & Justice
- Professor Julian Trollor, Department Head; Department of Developmental Disability Neuropsychiatry (3DN), School of Psychiatry, UNSW Sydney
- Professor Tony Butler, Program Head; Justice Health Research Program (JHRP), School of Population Health, UNSW Sydney
This project was part of the Australian Human Rights Institute’s 2023 joint seed funding round with the UNSW Disability Innovation Institute, receiving $19,890.
People with intellectual disability in Australia are “anywhere between 40 and 300 percent more likely to be jailed than people without intellectual disability”. International research consistently demonstrates that people with intellectual disability are both at risk of higher criminalisation and relatedly poorer outcomes both during and after imprisonment, compared to those without intellectual disability. Despite this, there remains a general death of evidence, especially in Australian studies, examining the experiences and outcomes of people with intellectual disability who are in prison. Research has indicated that there is an over-representation and probable under-detection of intellectual disability in the justice system, and that there is a need for communication support and advocacy during police encounters and sentencing. Furthermore, studies have shown that people with intellectual disability have unique and high profile of physical and mental health needs compared to others in prison and that they are at particularly high risk of returning to prison after release.
This project aims to further fill knowledge gaps in the current needs, circumstances and outlook for people with intellectual disability in the criminal justice system in Australia. The following two research questions are the foundation of this project:
Are people with intellectual disability in prison a homogenous group, or are there subgroups in terms of demographics, criminogenic risk and post-release outcomes?
What are the predictors (demographic, criminogenic, health-related) of receiving disability support services after release from prison?
These questions are important for several reasons. First, it is important to understand whether different subgroups exist within those who have intellectual disability in prison. So far, existing studies have only provided descriptions of the intellectual disability prisoner cohort, compared to other populations. Whilst this is useful, individuals with intellectual disability are a heterogeneous group who will vary in their risk of justice system (re)involvement, demographics, health and support needs. By employing longitudinal modelling methods, we can examine different groups within this population, who may follow different trajectories with regards to their offence and imprisonment patterns, health needs, and service use.
Secondly, a more focused look at those who do (and do not) receive disability support services after release from prison is an important next step. A recent review of international literature on interventions to support people with intellectual disability and developmental disabilities in the criminal justice system found that of 22 relevant studies, most focus on the ‘front end’ of the justice (i.e., police or court contact), and only one intervention focused on community re-entry. By identifying factors that may affect disability service use during the post-release period, our second research question will contribute important evidence to reduce potentially avoidable reincarceration of people with intellectual disability.