Can ensuring that people with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) have effective education reduce the risk of incarceration?


Either through the media or various reports on the issue, it is widely understood that people with any form of disability are at a higher risk of getting involved with the Criminal Justice System (CJS) as both victims and offenders more often than non-disabled people. Existing studies suggest that most people with Special Educational Needs (SEN) that do commit crime, whether they are aware of it or not, do so based on first-hand experiences of discrimination and other environmental factors that further intensify their vulnerability.

This research examined what is known about the effects of inadequate support in the education sector for SEN children and young people and the effects of inadequate support combined with imprisonment on SEN prisoners through the perspective of professionals that work in education and the prison system. There is compelling evidence, within the literature, which shows a link between individuals with learning disabilities (LD) and trouble with the law and law enforcement. Moreover, key reasons identified and said to increase an individual’s likelihood of and vulnerability to committing crime and/or reoffend, were lack of support networks; lack of knowledge within the police about SEN and the behaviours these can trigger; lack of a sense of belonging and discrimination; and gang grooming. For this qualitative study, seven professionals were interviewed: four from education and three working in the prison system. The study aimed to explore the impact of inadequate support in education on young SEN individuals and the impact of inadequate support strategies in prison on a SEN prisoner’s progress.

The current research acknowledged that deficient support systems can impact an SEN individual’s life decisions. Specifically, this study found that inadequate support for youngsters can result in extreme exposure to gang grooming, as for prisoners the lack of support translates into poor living skills when released and high reoffending reasons. The interviewees pointed out a few of the reasons for the former: lack of funding, outdated resources and poor staff training. However, questions are raised as to why this is still the case given that, as most participants stated, there is a much higher awareness nowadays about these issues and about disability and SEN.


Disability, Special Educational Needs, Education, Prison System, Support, Accessibility, Vulnerable Person, Crime, Inequality, Community

How to Cite

Costa, C. Q., (2023) “Can ensuring that people with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) have effective education reduce the risk of incarceration?”, Fields: journal of Huddersfield student research 9(1). doi:


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Claudia Quintans Costa (University of Huddersfield)





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