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Thursday 21:30 BBC Radio 4

Duration:
28 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 12 May 2014

Nikki Fox is well behaved. She's never been to prison. This is a good thing anyway, but particularly so because Nikki has muscular dystrophy, and gets around in a mobility scooter.

The UK's prison population is getting older, and as a result the prison service has to manage increasing numbers of inmates with physical disabilities. Can it cope with their needs?

Nikki speaks to former inmates, justice officials, and The Prisons Minister to investigate whether disabled prisoners experience harsher treatment than others. She discovers a world where staff refuse to push wheelchairs, disabled prisoners are held in the wrong level of security, lack of access can mean weeks without showering, and where one man's experience left him on a life support machine.

Is a system so reliant on Victorian buildings able to provide the sort of equal access and treatment expected in the outside world? Does prison culture discriminate against disabled people in ways that are now unacceptable in normal society? Are staff sufficiently trained to help with varied physical needs in an era of government cuts and fewer resources? Is it even fair to expect them to do so?

Nikki asks what the prison service and the government are doing to improve conditions for disabled people, and avoid a "double punishment", at the same time as ensuring they face justice. She hears about schemes encouraging prisoners to help each other, the push to develop new more accessible prisons, and the sentencing options open to judges.

Nikki sets out on her scooter to tackle these issues and discover what it's really like to be "Disabled and Behind Bars".

Producer: Neil Cowling
An Alfi Media production for BBC Radio 4.

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