Visiting Lecturer: Lean Dowse, ‘Lost in Translation: young people with cognitive disabilities in contact with the criminal justice system’, Glasgow

Location: Boyd Orr Building, Room 407 Lecture Theatre, University of Glasgow

Date: 4-5.30pm, 30th September 2015

Leanne Dowse, UNSW Australia

There is significant and growing concern that some young people with cognitive disabilities are marginalised and criminalised via their multiple movements into and through systems of care and control. As young people (and later as adults) those with multiple interlocking experiences that span disability, health and mental health, behavioural and social issues figure significantly in policing, justice and correctional settings, both as victims and offenders. It appears that for a significant proportion, their support needs are complex and their trajectory into the criminal justice system begins very early in life. This paper reports on research tracing the trajectories of a cohort of individuals who have complex support needs and who have been in prison in NSW Australia. Findings presented indicate that vulnerabilities emerging early in life for this group may include dual or multiple impairments, histories of victimization, early and persistent social disadvantage, placement in out of home care, early educational disengagement, precarious housing and substance misuse. The paper reflects on the limited capacity evident in the human service system to recognise and respond to these complex needs, particularly at key points of transition. A series of case studies demonstrate the ways that management of need is often defrayed to the criminal justice system as the key system of response. Effective prevention and support approaches will be discussed.


Leanne Dowse is Associate Professor and Chair in Intellectual Disability Behaviour Support [IDBS] at UNSW Australia. She has been a scholar, practitioner, supporter and ally in the area of intellectual disability since the 1980s and has taught social policy, research methods, disability studies, and criminology for the past two decades. Her role as Chair IDBS, works to expand the body of knowledge and increase workforce capacity in the delivery of appropriate and effective services to people with an intellectual disability with complex support needs, through a focus on training and education, enhanced policy and service models and targeted research. 


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