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Views And Reviews

Autism is underdiagnosed in prisoners

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 02 June 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i3028
  1. Sarah Ashworth, forensic psychologist in training1 2
  1. 1Centre for Forensic and Family Psychology, University of Nottingham
  2. 2Derbyshire Autism Services, Ripley
  1. lwxseash{at}

More investment is needed for assessment in forensic settings

The UK government strategy on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) now refers to prisoners,1 an improvement on the previous lack of focus. However, despite over-representation of ASD in forensic settings (0.98% of the general population but 2.3% in secure forensic settings),2 3 only five of the 33 action points consider forensic populations.

ASD is of specific concern among prisoners because it can slip through the gap between learning disabilities and mental health diagnoses, for which more formal assessments, in addition to liaison and diversion schemes, are being developed in forensic services. Identification of ASD at the earliest possible stage in the criminal justice system could allow for better assessment and management of challenging presentations, minimise the risk of additional mental ill health …

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