Some children with ADD, ADHD, and/or other developmental delays are placed in prison for their own safety, as a result of a failure to provide them with appropriate treatment.
A report released by the National Institute of Mental Health in July found that in 2012, 6% of children with a diagnosed developmental delay or delay-related disorder were in prison.
“In contrast, only 6% to 12% of those with a diagnosis of developmental delay were in detention facilities, which is higher than the general population,” said Dr. Jennifer M. Dickey, a research psychologist at the National Institutes of Health.
The report found that the prison population for those with ADHD ranged from 10% in Louisiana to 38% in New York, while the number of children placed in the juvenile system in states with high rates of incarceration also included children with disabilities.
As a result, the prison system is not treating the disorder appropriately.
While the rate of incarceration for children with the disorder is higher in the U.S. than in other developed nations, the report noted that in the states that incarcerate children with learning disabilities and developmental delays, those children are disproportionately represented in detention, where they have a higher risk of experiencing harm or abuse in prison, and the prison is not equipped to provide appropriate mental health care to them.
In fact, the Department of Justice found that, in 2012 there were 3,091 children in the federal prison system who had ADHD.
When children with developmental delays or ADHD are incarcerated, they have the potential to be in jail for years, sometimes decades.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 6 million children in America are incarcerated each year.
Despite the significant consequences for their health, these children often experience significant trauma as a consequence of their untreated ADHD.
According to a recent study by the University of Wisconsin, approximately one-quarter of children in foster care have been placed in a detention facility due to a developmental delay.
More than half of children who are placed into detention are placed there because they have ADHD or a learning disability.
Children in foster homes are also at increased risk of being sexually abused.
The National Association of People with Disabilities said in a recent report that children living in residential foster care experience sexual abuse at a rate five times higher than children in adult care.
In fact for the second year in a row, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder were the most likely group to be sexually abused in the foster care system, according to a 2014 report from the Center for American Progress.
The Department of Education found that children with intellectual disabilities and learning disabilities are the most vulnerable to sexual abuse, which can include rape, sexual assault, and coercion.
If a child with ADHD or another developmental delay is sexually abused, the consequences can be devastating.
This report is part of the Institute of Medicine’s research into the effects of incarceration on children and adolescents.