Millions Wasted Funding Legal Proceedings, and Incarceration That Could Be Avoided
Between 25 and 40 percent of prison inmates have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and most are undiagnosed and untreated.
This is an alarming overrepresentation considering that it’s estimated that only four to eight percent of the general population has ADHD.
What is most concerning is that often criminal activity and incarceration could have been prevented if ADHD symptoms were properly identified and treated.
Incarceration and Recidivism Can Be Prevaented
Society is paying a high price for the failure to identify and treat ADHD within the justice system. Millions of tax dollars are funding legal proceedings and the incarceration of individuals for crimes that could have been avoided.
Furthermore, individuals with ADHD are more likely to repeat offenses and break parole than non-ADHDers. This creates a vicious cycle that wastes more tax dollars and ultimately, ruins lives.
The proper identification and treatment for ADHD can help prevent at-risk youth from engaging in criminal behaviors and reduce recidivism in adolescents and adults.
ADHD Is Not Just for Children Anymore
ADHD is commonly associated with hyperactive children, but it is so much more than that. Once thought to be a childhood disorder, we now know that inattentiveness, impulsivity, and other symptoms often persist into adult ADHD.
Furthermore, ADHD symptoms are the result of impaired executive function, which means individuals with ADHD struggle with planning, organization, time management, and sustaining focus.
The impaired executive function also affects impulse control, frustration tolerance, and emotional regulation.
The ADHD brain constantly searches for novelty, attracted to highly stimulating and often risky activities.
What’s more, many adults with untreated ADHD self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. All these behaviors increase the likelihood of legal issues and criminal charges.
ADHD symptoms also affect the individual’s ability to navigate the justice system from their first contact with law enforcement. Inattention impairs the ability to provide accurate details about events in question, which may falsely indicate guilt.
Working memory deficits may affect their ability to understand Miranda rights, while impulsivity and the inability to plan ahead may lead the individual to blurt out incriminating information prior to consulting an attorney.
Minor Mistakes Can Lead to Major Problems
ADHD symptoms are detrimental throughout the legal process. Individuals with ADHD often experience difficulty gathering legal paperwork.
Poor time management skills lead to missed appointments with legal counsel or failure to appear for court dates.
Disorganization and a lack of planning lead to unpaid fines and failure to meet legal obligations. Additionally, inattentiveness often leaves the impression the individual is uncooperative or indifferent.
These issues can cause a downward spiral leading to incarceration and longer sentences.
Once incarcerated, poor emotional regulation, low frustration tolerance, and impulsivity lead to behavioral issues and tension between inmates.
This increases the risk of physical altercations and violence among inmates, threatening the safety of inmates and staff.
Again, inattention and poor planning skills may be misinterpreted as defiance and indifference by prison staff, legal counsel, and parole boards, often resulting in harsh consequences for ADHD inmates and even loss of eligibility for parole.
ADHD Impacts Recidivism
Once released, research indicates that individuals with ADHD are more likely than others to end up incarcerated again.
When left untreated, ADHD symptoms such as disorganization and forgetfulness put these individuals at risk of violating probation and parole unintentionally. Poor time management skills can lead to missed appointments with the parole officer and curfew violations.
The impaired executive function makes it difficult for those on probation or parole to plan for upcoming events and fulfill their legal obligations. This vicious cycle often leads to more jail time, ruined lives, and wasted tax dollars.
Ending the Cycle
The Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) is working to end this vicious cycle. In 2007, ADDA formed the Correctional Health/Justice Committee to address issues related to ADHD in the justice system.
Partnering with the Delaware Center for Justice (DCJ) in 2010, they designed a re-entry initiative to address the specific needs of inmates with ADHD.
Addressing ADHD-related issues for these inmates has proven enormously successful, improving inmate behavior during incarceration, reducing recidivism, and improving inmate success upon release.
In fact, it has proven so successful they are trying to standardize this program so it can be implemented in other correctional facilities across the country.
In January 2014, ADDA’s Correctional Health/Justice Committee released a white paper based on the research and the experiences of those involved in the ADHD Corrections Project in Delaware to raise awareness and initiate changes in the way correctional institutions identify and treat ADHD.
It provides recommendations for the screening and treatment of ADHD within the corrections system. The paper was written by Janet Kramer, Judy Cox, Carol Kuprevish, and Robert Eme with the cooperation of the National Commission of Correctional Health Care (NCCHC).
To learn more about how ADHD affects individuals in the justice system or for more information on what ADDA’s Correctional Health/Justice Committee is doing to change the way ADHD is identified and treated in the correctional setting, visit adhdjustice.add.org.
The Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) is the world’s leading adult ADHD organization. Our mission is to provide information, resources, and networking opportunities to help adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) lead better lives.
We are an international non-profit organization founded 25 years ago by adult ADHD support group leaders to share information and resources and to provide support for one another.
In the 25 years since its inception, ADDA has grown to become THE source for information and resources exclusively for and about the adult ADHD community.
Our goal is to generate hope, awareness, empowerment, and connections worldwide in the field of adult ADHD.
ADDA brings together scientific perspectives and the human experience. The information and resources provided to individuals and families affected by ADHD and the professionals who serve them focus on diagnosis, treatments, strategies, and techniques for helping adults with ADHD lead better lives.
If you’re concerned your symptoms might be ADHD-related, take ADDA’s ADHD screening test for adults.