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Blog: How Do-It Profile’s ‘prison glossary’ can help offenders

Helen Arnold-Richardson, Business Director at Do-It Profiler, explains why their new glossary of prison language will support both offenders and staff within the criminal justice system. 


Do-IT Profiler supports people moving through the justice system by taking a whole-person approach to assessing their needs. 

Each person’s background information, and results from Profiler’s learning difficulties and disabilities (LDD) screening tool, feeds into a report and produces contextualised strategies exploring how that person can be best supported during their time in the justice system and beyond. 

The process not only empowers them to cope with their challenges while in prison but also upskills staff in how to cater for their individual challenges. 

It’s with this ‘wraparound’ support in mind that Do-It Profiler decided to produce a glossary of terms (both official and colloquial) that newcomers to the criminal justice system may not understand. 

I was delivering LDD training, alongside Professor Amanda Kirby,with prison officers from the Scottish Prison Service and it struck me how very different prison language is to standard English, with many unfamiliar terms often used. 

We put out a call on Linkedin to engage people in the idea and had a really good response, which helped us massively in producing this glossary. It could be used for new prisoners, especially those with learning difficulties and disabilities, as well as new staff. 

The rationale behind it is that going into prison is quite an ordeal and when you come up against these terms, acronyms and language it can make it an even more unsettling experience.  

It’s our mission to raise the profile of prisoners with learning difficulties and disabilities, particularly those with complex or multiple challenges. If you have dyslexia, for example, people can account for that but may not realise you have other challenges as well, such as attention and concentration, which may be overlooked. There are also those who have never had a diagnosis due to circumstances or not meeting the criteria to gain the label of a specific condition. The whole-person approach Do-It Profiler offers can help alleviate those issues. 

We currently work with 13 public sector prisons in Scotland, and prisons across England and Wales, as well as youth offending teams and crime reduction charities. Our data set now includes 25,000 people and each organisation we work with is able to upload anonymously and interrogate their own data in order to make informed decisions about strategy and the effectiveness of their interventions. 

Some people in the justice system face multiple challenges, not only with learning difficulties and disabilities, but adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), homelessness, drugs or alcohol issues, exclusion from school and many more. Our whole-person approach takes all those factors into account to produce thorough and reliable data which will help organisations form the right package of support for each individual. 

You can download the prison glossary below. 

Helen Arnold-Richardson leads Do-It Profiler’s work in the criminal and youth justice sector. Do-It Profiler’s founder, Professor Amanda Kirby, sits on the Alliance of Sport’s Positive Action Group on Research and Evidence. 

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