New help for offenders struggling to understand Gloucestershire justice
MORE than a third of Gloucestershire criminals have learning difficulties with new simple to follow advice available on how to cope with the criminal justice system.
The Gloucestershire Learning Difficulties and Criminal Justice Group has launched a new leaflet to be handed to offenders on arrest. Advice is also being made available in a YouTube video to help offenders who can't read.
Staff from the 2Gether Trust specialising in mental health, prison service custody staff and the prison in-reach team make-up the CJG, who make an assessment of offenders to share with other agencies. The appropriate help can then be offered to people with learning difficulties or mental illness.
It is estimated as many as 37 per cent of offenders suffer from some kind of learning or reading challenge.
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Recommendations include assessing anyone aged over 18 at police stations, magistrates and crown court, advice on an offender's suitability for interview, use of an appropriate adult or an offer of an alternative to custody.
Terry Sprason, a mental health professional from the Gloucestershire Criminal Justice Liaison Service, said: "Should a person go to prison, we ensure all information is passed on so their needs are catered for.
"We have some challenges with the closure of HMP Gloucester, so it could become harder for us to pass on the relevant information to ensure the prisoner's needs are catered for."
Three leaflets have been produced to show the court process in Gloucester, Stroud and Cheltenham so offenders know what to expect in court.
According to the 2Gether Trust, 25 per cent of prisoners have an IQ of less than 80, whereas 7 per cent have an IQ of less than 70.
Sarah Campbell, a clinical nurse manager for HMP Gloucester says existing advice can be confusing and complicated.
"A lot of advice and information given out to prisoners is in written form and this is not always the best format," she said. "We are aware of people in the Criminal Justice System who are being exploited or used to carry out crime because they have learning difficulties and are easily led."
The leaflet was produced by staff from Tascor, the 2gether Trust, and Gloucestershire Constabulary as well as a group of people with learning disabilities, in order to ensure it was fit for purpose.
Alyson Keane, Team Leader with Tascor, led the production of the leaflet.
She said: "We realised that there are relatively high numbers of people taken into custody who cannot understand some of the processes we go through in the cells and struggle to understand their rights and other important information.
"After some careful research we've produced three leaflets – one for each custody suite in the county – so that anyone who needs some help in understanding what will happen to them while they are in custody and afterwards will have easy access to all the information they need in a format that is easy for them to understand."