Disabled Offender and Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)

 

A disabled offender is referred to in the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 2005 as any person that is physically, sensory or mental impaired with long term or substantial effect on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities. The Act was formed to ensure disabled persons are free from unlawful discrimination and to promote disability equality. It also stated services that are essential in prisons that assist in promoting equality scheme. It also comprises of policies and decisions relating to disabled offenders. Disabled offenders in today prisons include a range of impairments; physical impairment, progressive conditions such as HIV, or cancer, mental impairments, visual impairments, deafness, learning difficulties, speech and language impairment and disfigurement. The se types of impairments are lawfully recognized and offenders impaired require special attention and are governed by the act. All persons are expected to assist the government is upholding these policies and maintaining special services for this group of offenders. It is argued that custody is not enough in this group for them to rehabilitate since they are at a higher risk of discrimination, health related challenges and besides stress and depreciation. However, there are certain conditions that are not legally recognized and covered by the Act they include; addiction, seasonal allergies, tendency to steal or set fire, exhibitionism and cosmetic body piercing and tattoos (Hanser, 2007).

According to a thematic report by published by HM Inspectorate of Prisons that comprised of a detailed analysis of prisons in England and in Wales that showed that 15% of prisoners surveyed were disabled, 10% were in open prisons and the other 5% in high security prisons. The report recorded data from 82 prisons from local prisons that had 17% disabled offenders, training prisons with 15%, high security prisons with 23%, open prisons with 10%, young offender institutions with 11% and women prisons with 14%. The report further provided data regarding ethnicity of these offenders. It was clear that most of them where white with only 26% from other ethnicities. Black disabled offenders were 9%, Asian 4%, mixed race 4% and other 1%. The report was a clear indication that the number of disabled offenders is quite high in prisons today and therefore proper research and evaluation were ensure to ensure these wide number of persons receive adequate support essential for their rehabilitation. To ensure this is achieved, the government, prisons and the offenders themselves need to put extra effort to in disabled prison programs straight from the time the offender is put in custody.

As a disabled offender arriving and adapting to prison life might be too difficult than for the rest of the convicts, however there are a few measures that one can take to make the experience better. First of all, it is essential to clearly state your disability or condition at the reception. This will ensure that you are provided with all the available facilities that are available from that specific prison. Almost all prisons have a disability liaison officer who will visit and interview a disabled offender. When this officer gets to your cell as is the protocol in most prisons, ensure you clearly state your condition and required assistance since any information given to him is confidential. As you make your case known, also pay attention to what the officer says to be able to understand the prison rules and opportunities relating to your condition. However, these rules will also be available on the induction pack that will be handed to you for you to read. In case reading is a problem please ask for assistance, a tape may be provided for you to listen. There are several other people that a disabled offender can speak to when depressed or to make the new environment better, they include; prison staff, health care providers, chaplain, fellow inmates and disability liaison officer.

Having settled in prison successfully a disabled offender needs to make a few adjustment to his normal character or behavior for him or her to adapt faster. First of all, it is important to note that most prison do not have well established programs and facilities for disabled persons. Therefore, will is expected that some opportunities such as brails, talking gears,  advanced walking aids, social/ guide pets, specific foods and drugs may not be available. Adapting to a life without these items will make custody more bearable. However if it is impossible to stay without this items such as special foods because of a medical condition, it is essential to make it known to the liaison officer. These condition apply to both new inmates and transfers from other prisons. We find that, in cases where an inmate has to have some facilities and a given prison can not provide, transfers are made to another prison that can.

Special services are available in most prisons that can assist disabled persons to adjust to life in custody. Preventive health care and activities at decreased costs are provided. Special diet for elder inmates and sick patients is provided and inmates should assist prison staff through the health department to ensure the right diet is provided. Creative therapy programs, sex-offender counseling therapy are provided by professions. Further, just like for normal inmates in prison, this group is also provided with the opportunity to work, through community service. This opportunity provides disabled inmates with time outside their cell which is crucial time in prison. A hospice program for terminally ill offenders, proper nursing care, assistance in daily living activities and personal care requirements for those suffering from diabetics, asthma, cardiovascular, hearing and other diseases are also provided, meaning the prisons do mind about the health of disabled persons. These programs are mostly for physically challenged and those suffering for chronic diseases but with request they can be made available to almost any group of persons.

However, the public strongly objects holding disabled persons in normal prisons where they have to life together with other normal inmates. As stated in the American Psychiatric Association (1994) journal “disabled inmate life at the mercy of other inmates”. Clearly disabled inmates can not have the same experience in prison as the rest of the group even with the special services they still need cooperation from the rest of the inmates to be able adjust to custody. Most people especially in the United States argue that inmates who become terminally ill or disabled so not impose danger to the society any more. Therefore they should be first on list when considering inmates for parole release or compassionate release. The public views according to Crime and Mental research carried out by Day K. in 1993 stated that most people would prefer if disabled offenders’ programs were well established and stated in all prisons. This is to guarantee that all disabled persons can easily assess hospice and palliative care without much struggle (American Psychiatric Association (1994).

From a personal point of view, disabled offenders are actually punished twice. There are no standard special services for this group of inmates. I strongly support George Busuttil director of Prisoners’ Advocacy Group who stated that disabled persons depend on the goodwill of fellow detainees. Considering disabled fellows are quite many 15% of total fellows it is essential to properly research and investigate what is truly best for this group of persons. From a religious perspective, making disabled persons suffer more than normal fellows for the sore reason of disability is not right; it actually translates to “degrading and inhuman treatment”. Dr. Azzopardi, a great lawyer also argued under the same line of thought. The lawyer cited a case where a one arm person was in prison waiting bail for a number of days. While he was there he did not receive any special assistance like helping him wash, he was also not made aware of any nursing care that could be available. From this example, we can confidently conclude that prisons were not build for this kind of persons. However, due to the current crime increase in our society today it is important to ensure prisons are able to accommodate this group. This can be achieved by ensuring all prisoners are protected by Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C and by Title 11 of Americans with Disabilities Act 42, U.S.C. two Acts ensure that federal funded programs are available to all. They also assist in creating a private cause of action for disabled offender.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental       Disorders. Fourth Edition. D.C: American Psychiatric Press.

Day, K. (1993). Crime and Mental Retardation: A Review . In Howells, K. and Hollin, C.R.        Clinical Approaches to the Mentally Disordered Offenders. Chichester, U.K: John Wiley.
Hanser, R. (2007). Special Needs Offenders in the Community. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson   Prentice Hall

 


 

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