Recent debate in the House of Lords
Contributing to a debate this week on ‘Prisoners: Work Programmes’, Lord Addington made an impassioned call to reach out and help people with dyslexia.
He drew members’ attention to a Channel Five programme about Shane Lynch screened on January 7.
He said: “I do not know if the House of Lords has a large following of the band Boyzone, but he is one of its members. He made a moving and articulate programme about someone who is dyslexic going through the problem of having to admit, "What if I am not dyslexic? What if I am thick? What if I have failed?". This was someone who had a soft landing. He was going to get involved in the garage that his father ran and that was his way forward. The music opportunity came along and he went off there. However, that very successful, rich and well-known person was literally terrified at the thought that he might actually just be stupid in the way that people had told him, or in the way that he had assumed he was. In our prisons, we have people who have gone through the justice system for whom the idea of picking up a pencil and writing in public is a humiliating and painful experience. You have to reach them.”
Lord Addington drew the House of Lords’ attention to the fact that up to 50% of the prison population are found to be within the dyslexia spectrum.
He continued: “Recent government publications now mention special educational needs and take that idea on, but the one place that you cannot get this group of people into is a classroom - not unless you drive them there with whips and guns. For them, it is a frightening place where you reaffirm an unpleasant experience. It is quite obvious, once you think about it. Dyslexics are not the only group affected; you will find an over-representation of people with ADHD, aspergers and head injury. People who cannot communicate do not handle the criminal justice system well.
“I recommend a document, Dyslexia Behind Bars, which is the result of a study run by someone I saw in Chelmsford prison that initially looked at head injury and dyslexia. Here, successful intervention was achieved, primarily by developing and training mentors to go in, speak to a prisoner on an equal level and communicate. Once you have that level of communication, other things become possible. Formalised training and help become possible, but only once you have established that degree of communication. The formalised classroom will not achieve this because people will not use it.”
Lord Addington appealed to the Government to ‘embrace the Chelmsford project’. He added: “I hope that when the Minister replies he will pay attention to the very high number of people in prison who need help with accessing all forms of formalised training and, indeed, with filling out benefit forms when they leave. If we do not pay attention to this, we will create more trouble.”