awarded advanced Accreditation by National Autistic Society
Since G4S-managed HMP Parc first opened its doors to the Cynnwys unit - meaning Inclusion in Welsh - the UK’s first dedicated wing for residents with learning difficulties (LD), autism spectrum conditions (ASC) and significant brain injuries, the multidisciplinary team has worked tirelessly to transform the lives of those in their care.
Findings from the J Talbot Report 2008 (PDF) suggests up to 30% of men in custody are thought to have a learning difficulty/disability, with individuals from this cohort three times more likely to suffer from depression and spend their sentence in segregation and high risk units. Around 50% struggle to communicate their needs or understand what is expected of them which can lead to unsociable or violent behavior and increases the likelihood of becoming a victim of bullying.
“Prison can be an overwhelming environment and the bright lights, noise and unfamiliar faces are disorientating for some of those in our care,” explains Parc’s Learning Disability Nurse, Arianwen Selway.
Rehabilitate and reintegrate
“We have men who can’t tell the time, get confused by which landing they are on because everywhere looks the same and they can struggle to comply with complex prison rules and processes which can lead to confrontations and incidents with staff and other prisoners, so it’s paramount that reasonable adjustments are made.
“This could be as simple as providing a sleep pack containing eye masks and ear plugs to prevent sensory overload, or painting wings and landings in different colours to help men recognise their surroundings,” she explains.
“We hold events to celebrate success and achievement where individuals can showcase achievements to their peers and staff across the establishment, and have made adjustments to the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) Scheme to ensure a level playing field for all. We are here to rehabilitate and reintegrate people back into their communities - it’s not punitive, and without this service there would be many lost in the custodial system,” she concludes.
Complex needs support workers and specially trained operational staff known as coordinators help facilitate sensory sessions in a dedicated sensory room and use a range of communication tools for those who struggle to communicate their needs. Signs reminding visitors not to slam doors and allowing prisoners to collect food and medication at the start or end of the queue in order to help reduce sensory overload, are just a few of the simple changes Parc has implemented to make Cwynnys resident’s lives more comfortable.
“What Parc has managed to achieve is just fantastic,” explains National Autism Society’s Head of Autism Accreditation, Christine Flintoft-Smith.
“The whole prison approach has been really good and required a high level of inter-departmental cohesion - Parc has set the bar high as a beacon of best practice for other prisons. It goes far above and beyond what is considered best practice and is a really positive sign for the criminal justice system as a whole.
“We understand how difficult it is for prisons to even get initial accreditation - so for Parc to have invested the time, resources and challenged archaic prison attitudes in order to implement some major developments that really give their residents the best chance inside the walls - is a heck of an achievement,” she concludes.
Significant reduction in incidents of reportable and violent incidents, self-harm (by 75%), adjudications and substance misuse have resulted from the support and interventions of the team, and their findings have helped set out the pathway for LD and ASC services in custody and to support HMIP and MoJ in the development of research and policies for best practice for the support and management of offenders with neurodiverse conditions.
“I am incredibly proud that HMP Parc is the first prison to receive this prestigious award and I would like to thank everyone who has contributed and helped enable us to achieve this,” says Deputy Director Ian Coles.
“In recognising how challenging the prison environment can be for autistic prisoners, the team at Parc has risen to the challenge in creating a specialist unit to support those in need, and have worked tirelessly to deliver high quality support services. The NAS have highlighted the excellent and creative work carried out by staff to deliver person-centered support and it is fantastic that their hard work has been recognised at such a level.”