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How to recognize a mild intellectual disability earlier in the criminal justice system?

The NSCR and the University of Amsterdam (UvA) developed the practical training LVBeeld; from discussion to recognition, to allow professionals earlier in the criminal justice chain to recognize a mild intellectual disability among clients. In this way, adequate guidance and treatment can be deployed as quickly as possible.
By Marigo Teeuwen MSc | 30 November 2019 | Sanctions

A mild intellectual disability (LVB) is often not recognized in the criminal justice system in time or even not at all. However, research shows that the percentage of clients with a LVB in forensic care is high. Characteristics of a LVB are limitations in intellectual functioning (IQ <85) and social functioning. Existing information is not sufficient to recognize a LVB in time (Teeuwen & Malsch, 2017). There is a lot of knowledge, but the professional does not seem able to translate this into practice. The client with a LVB can also easily mislead professionals. The limitation is not visible physically and the LVB client is often master in concealing his or her limitations.

Interventions geared to average IQ too high

Underestimation of LVB problems entails serious risks in the criminal proceedings and the forensic process. Interventions such as community service, which are geared to an average IQ, are too ambitious. The LVB client cannot handle the assignments and timing, does not arrive on time or does not show up at all, and there is a good chance that someone will drop out. The result is a report or recidivism and often an increased sentence (Kaal, 2013; Teeuwen, 2012). The client then does not understand why he or she is punished ‘again’. This sense of injustice increases mistrust of professionals and interventions. The result: the LVB client has learned nothing, resistance and suspicion have increased as well as the risk of recidivism (Kaal, Overvest & Broertjes, 2014; Teeuwen, 2012).

Training for integration and application of knowledge in practice

In collaboration with PPC Vught (penitentiary psychiatric center), NIFP (Netherlands Institute for Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology), Trajectum (LVB support), the Council for Child Protection and Probation Netherlands, the NSCR and the UvA developed the training LVBeeld; from discussion to recognition. The training is intended for professionals in forensic care (investigators, probation officers and NIFP reporters) who have early contact with suspects and convicts with a LVB. The interactive training is aimed at teaching skills and the integration and application of knowledge in practice.

Whether there is an LVB or not requires more than just one argument

During the training, participants learn to recognize LVB signals - including soft signs such as verbal and / or physical aggression - and increase their knowledge of what it means to have an LVB. The training material consists of a combination of videos of LVB and non-LVB young people, exercise and knowledge transfer. In the visual material (LVB) young people with an actor treat themes from their perception. The films form the basis for discussion and understanding the meaning of a characteristic. For example, a young person who keeps repeating his point of view may be seen as someone with a strong opinion, others see a limitation: the repetition represents a lack of resolving power. Whether there is a (characteristic of a) LVB or not requires more than one argument. Weighing, valuing and combining arguments is something that professionals learn in the discussion with colleagues.

Publication details and further reading (in Dutch)

Collot d’Escury-Koenigs, A., Boering, A., Teeuwen, M. (2019) LVBeeld; van discussie naar herkenning. Een training met beelden van Licht Verstandelijk Beperkte (LVB)- en niet-LVB-jongeren voor professionals werkzaam in het forensische domein.

Marigo Teeuwen MSc


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