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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder


FASD & Corrections: Social Services Needs of Adults with FASD in the Correctional System (2009) - E. Sharon Brintnell


  • Theme: Addressing the unique social services needs of adults with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) within the correctional system.
  • Context: FASD is a birth defect causing cognitive and behavioral impairments, significantly impacting an individual's ability to function within society and the justice system.

FASD in the Correctional System

  • Prevalence: FASD is underrecognized in the correctional system, with current rates in North America and Western Europe estimated at 2 to 5%. It is notably over-represented in the juvenile justice system, suggesting a similar trend in adult systems.
  • Challenges: Individuals with FASD face challenges due to cognitive impairments, often leading to higher rates of incarceration and recidivism.

Key Findings

  1. Cost Implications: The cost of managing FASD within the correctional system is significant yet underestimated. Addressing FASD can reduce recidivism and associated costs.
  2. Social Determinants of Health: Individuals with FASD often have lower social determinants of health, necessitating improved daily living conditions in areas like housing, employment, and social protection.
  3. Legal Rights and Rehabilitation: The correctional policy needs to shift from punishment to rehabilitation, considering the legal rights and specific needs of individuals with FASD.
  4. Co-morbid Mental Illness: FASD often co-occurs with mental health and substance abuse problems, requiring integrated treatment and support programs.
  5. Program Coordination Post-Release: Effective community programs and coordination with correctional facilities are crucial for successful reintegration post-release.
  6. Skills Development in Custody: Developing competencies and providing social supports for individuals with FASD while in custody can offer a chance for rehabilitation and reduced offending.
  7. Integrated Programs in Correctional Systems: Programs need to be tailored to the functional abilities of individuals with FASD, emphasizing social support and skill development.
  8. Intensive, Client-specific Programs: Customized programs focusing on individual offender's abilities and goals are essential in reducing recidivism.
  9. Identification and Diagnosis: Proper screening and diagnosis of FASD within the correctional system can lead to more effective interventions.
  10. Development of FASD Units: Specialized FASD units in correctional systems are needed to address the unique needs of this population.


  1. Screening and Assessment: Implement a process for FASD screening and assessment of individual offenders.
  2. Adapting Environments: Modify correctional environments to accommodate the organic origins of FASD and protect individuals from exploitation and abuse.
  3. Integration of Health and Social Services: Establish a collaborative approach between health and social services to address the complex needs of individuals with FASD.
  4. Pre and Post-release Programs: Develop comprehensive pre-release and post-release programs for smooth transition and community integration.
  5. Training and Education: Educate justice system and correctional professionals on managing FASD within the adult offender population.
  6. Community Support and Case Management: Implement formal community support through case managers or community navigators to provide advocacy, outreach, and integrated case management.


  • Imperative Action: Addressing the needs of adults with FASD in the correctional system is crucial for reducing recidivism and improving outcomes.
  • Social Services Role: Enhanced social services support is essential both within the correctional system and upon release, facilitating better community reintegration and overall well-being.