Strategies to reduce recidivism for young people and adults with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Mrs Sophie Harrington1

1Nofasd Australia, Perth, Australia

Young people with FASD are 19 times more likely to be incarcerated. Results from a recent study in WA prisons identified 36% of young offenders aged 10 – 18 with FASD.

In the general population, mental health issues are identified as a causal factor of criminal behaviour, 92% of individuals living with FASD will have a co-occurring mental health issue

Individuals with FASD are vulnerable, they have a brain injury; a disability which requires different supports and interventions to improve life outcomes.  To reduce recidivistic behaviours and desistance from crime, a better understanding of the brain injury that is FASD is critical, alternative and innovative approaches to justice are required.

The static and dynamic risk factors of an individual with FASD are likely to include childhood trauma, alcohol and/or drug abuse, poverty and co-occurring disabilities and disorders which manifest as inappropriate behaviours and learning challenges.

Poor executive functioning is the core of this disability, impacting an individual’s ability to control impulses, understand cause and effect and learn from mistakes. In order to reduce recidivistic behaviours, we need to be willing to understand.

1 in 13 fetuses exposed to alcohol prenatally, will sustain a brain injury resulting in FASD. Prevalence within the Australian general population is estimated to be between 2 and 5%.

This presentation will look at the impact on the criminogenic needs and risk factors of individuals with FASD and the strategies to address the responsivity principle to ensure developmentally appropriate supports are considered and employed.


Sophie Harrington is a National Community Educator for NOFASD Australia, working for more than 20 years with youth and families ‘at-risk’, both in Australia and the United Kingdom. Sophie has worked extensively in roles as a case manager, program manager and regional manager, across the AOD, youth homelessness and justice sectors.  Her experience of managing programs in the justice and homelessness sectors, in particular, have brought her in to contact with many individuals and families affected by FASD .

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