Functional illiteracy and neurocognitive deficits among male prisoners: implications for rehabilitation

Tiina Tuominen (based at Department of Psychology, Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Turku, Turku, Finland)
Tapio Korhonen (based at Department of Psychology, Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Turku, Turku, Finland)
Heikki Hämäläinen (based at Department of Psychology, Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Turku, Turku, Finland)
Satu Temonen (based at Department of Psychology, Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Turku, Turku, Finland)
Helena Salo (based at Department of Psychology, Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Turku, Turku, Finland)
Jouko Katajisto (based at Department of Statistics, University of Turku, Turku, Finland)
Hannu Lauerma (Associate Professor, based at Psychiatric Hospital for Prisoners, National Institute for Health and Welfare, University of Turku, Finland)

The Journal of Forensic Practice

ISSN: 2050-8794

Publication date: 4 November 2014

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to determine the nature of the academic skills deficits in male offenders and their relation to neurocognitive deficits.

Design/methodology/approach

In total, 72 Finnish male prisoners were tested with regard to reading, spelling, and mathematical abilities.

Findings

Low academic skills, especially reading, were related to poor neurocognitive performance in verbal memory, visual memory, attention, and motor dexterity. The results showed a high number (29-36 percent) of reading and spelling disorders. In all, 15 percent of those with medium to severe problems in academic skills had marked difficulties in mathematics. In total, 88 percent of the participants with at least one problem area in literacy skills had neurocognitive deficits. In the present study, the pervasive neurocognitive deficits, occurring comorbidly with reading and spelling difficulties, seem to refer to a fundamental set of deficits which are only minimally explained by IQ, educational background or training.

Research limitations/implications

Reading and spelling difficulties could be seen as functional illiteracy which, combined with a broad spectrum of neuropsychological function deficits, pose a challenging task for rehabilitation. Only after proper identification of deficits has been achieved is it possible to set goals and select the appropriate means for rehabilitation. One obvious limitation is the moderate number of subjects (n=72).

Practical implications

It may not be enough just to train reading or develop literacy activities among prisoners; focussing intervention on comprehensive neurocognitive deficits is also necessary.

Originality/value

Correlates and comorbidity between academic difficulties and neurocognitive deficits among offenders, especially in arithmetic difficulties, have been less studied.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation, the Finnish Cultural Foundation, the OP-Pohjola Group Research Foundation, the Jalmari and Rauha Ahokas Foundation and the Criminal Sanctions Agency in Finland.

Citation

Tuominen, T., Korhonen, T., Hämäläinen, H., Temonen, S., Salo, H., Katajisto, J. and Lauerma, H. (2014), "Functional illiteracy and neurocognitive deficits among male prisoners: implications for rehabilitation", The Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 268-280. https://doi.org/10.1108/JFP-10-2013-0044

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Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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