Juvenile justice NSW: Supporting young people with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment

Ms Ruth Marshall1

1Juvenile Justice Nsw, , Australia

Young people with intellectual disability or cognitive impairment are over-represented in the criminal justice system for a number of reasons, and the role of our staff at Juvenile Justice is to identify possible impairment as early as possible, refer for psychological assessment, provide ongoing support and advocate on behalf of these vulnerable young people and their families.

Identifying intellectual disability or cognitive impairment can have significant implications for the young person including possible diversion under section 32 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990, educational assistance, living supports and/or financial help via disability benefits and/or the NDIS. Supervision goals and treatment targets are met by adapting programs to meet individual needs both in custody and in the community. A multi-systemic, trauma-informed and strengths-based approach is required and we are working with other organisations and stakeholders, including individuals with a disability, in order to improve practice and outcomes.


A Forensic Psychologist registered both in the UK and Australia, Ruth has worked in maximum security prisons, juvenile detention centres, and other forensic settings since 1980. Moving from Corrective Services NSW to Juvenile Justice as their Chief Psychologist in May 2011, Ruth is now JJ’s Principal Psychologist with responsibility for the provision of psychological services to all JJ clients.