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“Cardboard gangsters”, “in crowd” and “no control”: a case study of autism spectrum disorder in the prison environment

Clare Sarah Allely (Clare Sarah Allely is Reader at Department of Forensic Psychology, University of Salford, Manchester, UK) a
Toni Wood (Toni Wood is Lecturer at Department of Criminology, University of Salford, Manchester, UK)

Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour

ISSN: 2050-8824

Article publication date: 28 March 2022




The purpose of this paper is to add to the relatively limited existing literature exploring the experience of individuals with autism spectrum disorder in the prison environment. Prisoners with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) need to be identified in order that they are given the necessary and appropriate support and safeguards. It is increasingly recognised that, for individuals with ASD, prison can be more challenging. This can be due to ASD traits which can make problems occur in everyday life. Some of these ASD traits include: obsessions, compulsions and difficulties in communicating with others. There is increasing recognition that adults with ASD who are in prison are more vulnerable to bullying, social isolation, sexual victimisation and exploitation confrontations with other prisoners. Given this, more research is warranted in this area highlighting the specific needs and challenges of individuals with ASD in the prison.


This paper is a case study of Mr C.T., a British Citizen, who is currently serving a life sentence (discretionary). Mr C.T. has spent more than 10 years in prison. At the time of completing the questionnaire for the present study, Mr C.T. was 51 years of age. He pled guilty to charges of lewd, indecent and libidinous practices and behaviour; making an indecent photograph contrary to s52(1)(a) of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982; and possession of indecent photographs contrary to s52(A)(1) of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982. Mr C.T. was convicted of Lewd, Indecent and Libidinous Practices and Behaviour and 2 x Civic Government (Scotland) Act, Section 52 (1) (a) and was sentenced to Life Imprisonment with a punishment part of 6 years.


The case study discussed in this paper clearly raises a number of issues and concerns that urgently need attention in our criminal justice systems.


There is relatively little research exploring the experiences and challenges faced by individuals with ASD. This paper will add to the existing body of research in this limited field.



The authors would like to thank Mr C.T. for his time and dedication to completing the questionnaire upon which this paper was based.


Allely, C.S. and Wood, T. (2022), "“Cardboard gangsters”, “in crowd” and “no control”: a case study of autism spectrum disorder in the prison environment", Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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