Research Makes Police Custody More ‘Autism-Friendly’

The ESRC is celebrating its Impact prize winners. Here we have an in depth look at Dr. Chloe Holloway and how she is making an impact today.

Chloe Holloway from the University of Nottingham, is one of the finalist for Outstanding Early Career Impact in the Economic and Social Research Council Celebrating Impact Prize 2019. Her research into how autistic individuals are affected by police custody is leading to new autism guidance and standards for police and inspection departments in the UK.

Autistic individuals have a higher risk of miscommunication and misinterpretation due to stress induced situations, such as coming into contact with the police. It is because of this, that autistic individuals are estimated to be seven times more likely than the general public to come into contact with the Criminal Justice System.

…despite the likelihood of contact with he police, there is no current policy on specialist autism training for police…

Dr. Chloe Holloway

With help funding from the ESRC, Dr. Holloway, has carried out one of the first studies into autistic individuals experiences in police custody. By interviewing autistic individuals and by creating a method called “the participant walk through,” Dr. Holloway finding reveal that overwhelming amount of experiences that autistic individuals have were very negative. The experiences documented included confusion about what was happening, high anxiety caused by sensory impacts, and not adequate holding cells.

[We found] the custody environment so stressful, overall, that they wave their legal rights to a lawyer or signed an admission of guilt, simply to speed up the process.

In the UK, police have acknowledge the strain that comes when coming through policy custody. Duncan Collins, a Police Inspector at Nottinghamshire, states, “its very stressful for anybody to pass through police custody, but particularly so for autistic individuals or other peoples with hidden disabilities.”

Currently, East Midland police, are using the research that Dr. Holloway and her team gathered to shape the design of ‘autism-friendly’ custody cells, and are also developing new training regulations for over 80 detention police officers to include supporting neuro-divergent individuals in custody.

Going forward we want to the cells fit for purpose and in particular we want to care for vulnerable peoples to the highest possible standards…

Duncan Collins, police inspector

Watch the in depth video about Dr. Holloway’s research and the impact generated below:

ESRC Celebrating Impact logo

The ESRC is celebrating its Impact prize winners. Here we have an in depth look at the winners research and how they are making an impact today.

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