Talk at the MAC (By Jennifer)

Read the Easy Read version of this blog

Out of the Shadows is a book that has been written by Sally Williams and photographed by Polly Braden, working with Multistory. They have also have an exhibition which is currently at The MAC Birmingham until Sunday 11th November.


Polly Braden led the talk and explained about the project. The project was looking into why there are so many people with learning disabilities in prisons and why they ended up in there. They talked to a group of people with learning disabilities who had been in and out of prison.

It is upsetting to know that so many people have ended up arrested and in prison because they had no other way to get out their frustration, they didn’t understand what they were being asked or just simply wanted the interview to end because they had had enough.


In America, research has shown that as asylums closed, the numbers of people in prisons grew. These numbers cover the same amount of people. This suggests that prisons have become the new asylums, which is hard to think about.

Myself having a learning disability and being born in the 1980’s really makes you reflect on your life, how you have been treated with a learning disability and had the support from family. But not everyone is lucky and are misunderstood and have had to live their life in asylums or even prison. It is not right and shouldn’t be happening it needs to be stopped, unless a serious crime or any crime has been committed they shouldn’t be locked away, they should have the help and support that they need.

10% of people in prison have a learning disability, and they have no access to the workshops, as if they have an IQ below 70 they can’t get on the behaviour programmes, which means that they spend even longer in prison. If they could get on these programmes it would shorten their sentence.

If they live in supported living accommodation they should have a support worker who can inform the police that the person they are supporting has got a Learning Disability, as an appropriate adult should be present when they are being interviewed by the police.


Some people even hide their disability because they are worried about being bullied and again this should not be happening. We should be proud to be different because everybody is different in their own unique way, we are all special. As I say “The greatest disability of all is people who don’t respect us or treat us the same as everybody else” We need to stop being labelled and be supported and feel a part of our community and just to be understood and be listen to.

The autism society are trying to get prisons to be autism accredited and get more Learning Disability nurses into the prisons.


After the talk we were showed around the exhibition and again it just really got you thinking about what there life must be like and the way they have been and quite possibly still are being treated. They had in the exhibition a prison easy read meal plan which was not easy read, it looked confusing, the words didn’t match the pictures.


The team that are part of the out of shadows project have done really well with setting up this exhibition and making people aware of what has been happening and is still happening and I will certainly be recommending people to visit the exhibition. My only criticism is that the book is not in easy read, I can understand with the fact that the exhibition is what is in the book and you can see the pictures, or hear the stories. However if people can’t come to the exhibition for whatever reason or if we share the book for example with other people to help support the project and they rely on easy read, they won’t be able to read the book.

The exhibition was really interesting and there was lots of useful information that we weren’t aware of. It has also given us ideas and inspiration for our own launch event and exhibition of our project Hidden Lives Remembered. We look forward to inviting Polly and the team when we have dates confirmed for our launch event.

Further information: