Washington prison provides program for inmates with intellectual disabilities, autism, TBI

October 15, 2014

For inmates with intellectual disabilities, autism or traumatic brain injury, prison can be dangerous - they're easily exploited their peers and they have trouble remembering rules, which can lead to disciplinary action and segregation from other inmates, NPR reports. The Skill Building Unit, a small prison program in Washington state, has been attempting to better address the needs of this special population for the past year. Inmates complete exercises designed to help build self-awareness and self-respect and participate in basic skills classes, like dental hygiene. Angela Browne, of the Vera Institute of Justice, thinks that an alternative like this unit is in everyone's best interest. Browne says by looking for alternatives to segregation specialized units like the one at WCC are helping to flip the paradigm for some inmates. The inmates in the program are also housed among some from the general population, some of whom act as social and educational mentors. Browne says the mentors' role is especially important since some inmates in this program will eventually return to the general population or be released. The 60 people in this program are just a small fraction of the 1,500 or so inmates who the DOC has identified as having an IQ of lower than 80.