Dropping into a life of crime

21st July 2000 at 01:00
HALF of young prisoners may suffer from dyslexia, an Edinburgh University study at Polmont Institution has discovered (page four). Researchers point out the obvious. Dyslexics mask their learning difficulties from teachers by their social and emotional problems, turning it into a vicious circle. Offending behaviour leads to repeat offending.

Clive Fairweather, chief prisons inspector, is honest enough to admit education falls well down the prison priority list when officers are faced daily with drugs misuse and suicides among inmates. Combating dyslexia and improving core skills falls even further down the agenda, although it is one of the easiest disadvantages to deal with.

A second Edinburgh Univrsity study on children's hearings (page four) reveals a not unconnected earlier link between educational failure and youth crime that will lead for many to instititutions such as Polmont. It is clear poor performance in school, poor relationships with peers and teachers, and poor attitudes to learning are established early on - and certainly in the first years of primary.

Earlier diagnosis seems an obvious answer, however difficult that may be with individuals who appear to live outwith conventional rules in class, school and home. The Polmont study shows many continue to slip through the educational net, ducking the help they could usefully deploy to change behaviour. Neds, too, have needs.

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