‘I'm not even bothered if they think, is that autism?’: an exploratory study assessing autism training needs for prison officers in the Scottish Prison Service

Frank Slokan*, Maria Ioannou

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract: Previous studies indicate that autistic individuals can experience increased distress in prison, leading to significant disruption in the prison regime and difficulties in rehabilitation (Allely 2015; Allen et al. 2008). This exploratory study investigates autism knowledge and training needs among prison officers. Current understanding, possible training content and a strategy for implementation of autism training for officers are all explored. Methods utilised include a survey and interviews/focus group. Themes identified include specific vulnerabilities, staff skill, training needs and implementation barriers. Participants showed some awareness, but lacked understanding of autism in a prison setting. This article explores whether focused training on one condition is problematic, due to limited resources within the prison system. A wider focus on practical skills to supporting people with neurodiverse conditions and links with non‐prison‐based local health services is seen as more effective than focusing on individual diagnosis within a prison setting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)546-563
Number of pages18
JournalHoward Journal of Crime and Justice
Issue number4
Early online date29 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • Autism
  • Prison
  • Scotland
  • Training

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