Learning and intellectual disabilities

The Prison Reform Trust has highlighted the size and importance of the problem of learning disabilities also known as intellectual disabilities in prison: 7% of people in contact with the criminal justice system have a learning disability, compared with approximately 2% of the general population. Of those in prison with a learning disability, 85% report struggling to read prison information, 78% report problems filling in forms and 66% report making themselves understood. When including people with learning difficulties as well as learning disabilities, 34% of the prison population fall into this broader category. Of those with learning difficulties, the Prison Reform Trust found that 69% report struggled to read prison information and fill in forms and that 50% struggle to make themselves understood.

Many prisoners with intellectual disability may not have been formally diagnosed or identified. The prison healthcare team has an important part to play in diagnosis and referral for assessment to the mental health team.

Intellectual disability is closely associated with premature death. The LeDeR study is a learning disabilities mortality review in which every death in a person with a learning disability is evaluated. All such deaths should be reported to this study LeDeR.


The RCGP Secure Environments Group has produced 'Learning and Intellectual Disabilities in Secure Environments' resources and guidance for GPs and primary care professionals working in secure environments to help them improve their knowledge on how to support people with learning disabilities.