Easy Read Stories

Feedback on using Easy Read in the Criminal Justice System


Here are some stories and positive feedback from Criminal Justice staff who have used Easy Read with the offenders they work with.


Easy Read appeal form

"At the request of the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) created an Easy Read form for use by people seeking to appeal against a magistrates or Youth Court conviction or sentence. The CCRC consulted the Working for Justice Group for this purpose and with a member of the Working for Justice Group’s help were able to devise an effective Easy Read appeal form. The magistrate and Youth Court appeal form was trialled before finally going into circulation and can now be obtained at www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/criminal/forms (you can also click on appeal)

Catherine Dilks, Customer Service Manager, The Criminal Cases Review Commission

Shopping made Easy!

"About a year ago, while supporting a learning disabled prisoner, he told me a story about how because this was his 1st time in prison, he didn't want to tell any other prisoners or staff the he could not read or write. So when he was handed a canteen sheet, he saw the other prisoners filling it out and rather than be embarrassed and ask for help he just ticked some boxes and put his name on the form (he had actually put his name in the wrong place also).

Unfortunately it is other prisoners who dispense the canteen goods, so when he was called to collect the goods that he had randomly ordered he was laughed at and made fun of because he had ordered female deodorant, soap powder, some chocolate sweets and face cream. The next week he met a prisoner he felt he could trust and asked him to help with the form.

After hearing this story I liaised with the 'toe-by-toe' co-ordinator and the woman who managed the stores department (the Canteen). I then found out about Mencap's accessibility team and contacted them to convert our canteen sheet into an Easy Read format, which they did after a few weeks and lots of communication about how best to design the new form. Their cost price was very reasonable.
[Please see the good practice examples page for this document].

Now for anybody the prison identifies as having a learning disability or for people the 'toe-by-toe' team are working with or those the store's manager identifies (from their existing canteen forms) we confidentially contact them and offer them their own copy of the Easy Read canteen sheet. This has worked really well and every month when the prices are updated or new products added, we give them a new copy."

Gary Docherty, Practitioner nurse, HMP Greenback

Applying for a Service made Easy!

"Using the ideas that the Working for Justice group provided..., the CCRC created a new Easy Read Application form. We introduced this in January 2012 and since then our application intake has doubled. Anyone with a criminal conviction, no matter how minor or serious is entitled to apply to the CCRC and it’s wonderful that more people now feel they can now access our service.

What we are particularly pleased about, is that as a result of creating this form we have seen a   significant surge in applications from groups of people who could be viewed as being vulnerable. It is these groups of people who have also previously been under-represented in our applicants.    For example, the number of women now applying to us has almost doubled since introducing the easy read form and the number of young people applying to us has risen by 60% from this time last year.We are also getting significantly more applications from BME groups and foreign nationals which is also fantastic.  

We do not at this moment in time keep firm statistics on how many people are applying to us who have  a learning difficulty or disability, but since introducing our easy read form, a lot more of our applicants have told us about the reading and/or writing difficulties that they have, which would suggest that more are now applying to us. The number of people applying to us from prison has also risen a great deal. We are particularly pleased about this because the number of people in custody applying to us was dropping as a percentage every year. 

We have also received a great deal of praise from our stakeholders, including solicitors and prison staff, about our new easy read application form and our other easy read literature. Some of our applicants are legally represented and solicitors seem to have no reservations about using our easy read form (which they send in with supporting documentation). We have also contacted the solicitors who use our service the most frequently for their feedback on our new easy read form. All of the solicitors who responded recognised the importance of making our service accessible to everyone and said they would be happy to use the easy read form themselves.

When we first introduced the easy read application form we decided to give people the choice of either filling in our ‘traditional’ form or filling in the ‘easy read’ version. It very quickly became clear though that our easy read version was so much more popular. Also, when we initially gave people the choice of two application forms, a few of our applicants ended up filling in both which, of course, is unnecessary.  Because of the positive feedback we were receiving from our applicants and professionals about our easy read form, we decided it made sense to use the ’easy read’ version of our application form as our ‘main form’ and since doing that our application rate has soared.

On the CCRC’s website our easy read form is the only form that is available to download (and many people do this). We also now only send out our easy read application form to those people who are interested in applying to us. We have kept a few of our ‘traditional’ forms in our office in case anyone specifically requests one, but so far this has not happened.  We also now only have ‘easy read’ leaflets and ‘easy posters’ because of the positive feedback we have received on this material
. [Please see the good practice Easy Read examples from the CCRC page on our website for these].

I don’t have any firm figures, but from anecdotal evidence, I think what has helped is that the ‘easy read’ form, not only assists people with literacy issues, but makes us look like a more approachable, non-judgmental organisation which helps encourage people to ask for our help regardless of whether or not that person has a learning difficulty or disability. Part of my job is to visit prisons all over the UK to talk to inmates and staff about the CCRC. I have therefore had first hand experience at seeing our potential applicant’s faces when they first see our easy read literature and it’s lovely to see the encouragement and relief on their faces when they realise that the form will not be difficult to fill in.

We plan to continue to create documents for people who have gone through the criminal justice system, in an Easy Read format. For example, I am now planning to create an easy read complaint form to make it easier for our applicants to raise any concerns they might have about the way the CCRC is handling their case. This month we also changed all of the letters that we send out to our applicants, at the early stages of their review, so that they are much more clearer and easier to understand. I’m reluctant to say that these letters are now ‘easy read’ letters because they do not include any pictures, but they do follow the other easy read principles that is set out in the helpful guidance that you sent me when I first started this process."  

Catherine Dilks, Customer Service Manager, The Criminal Cases Review Commission

Since writing the above feedback, the CCRC have received increased funding to help meet their increased application rate. Learn more about it in this article featured in the Guardian newspaper, which mentions the CCRC's Easy Read resources and the positive impact these have had: Miscarriages of justice body to receive increased funds after applications rise

"I think that all areas within prisons would benefit from the availability of a wide range of Easy Read materials, and the resources to develop some of their own. The education departments, in particular, have been very interested in the use of easy read materials with a range of prisoners.

[Please see the good practice page Easy Read examples relating to Healthcare in Prison for the Healthcare and Induction Easy Read documents being used in Surrey Prisons].
Easy Read resources may also be a way forward to enable prisoners who would normally be excluded, due to learning disability or learning difficulty, from accessing some of the courses aimed at changing offender behavior.

Stephen Haynes, prison Liaison Nurse (Learning Disabilities), Mid Surrey community LD Team


If you would like to share your experiences of using Easy Read documents in the Criminal Justice System then please send the information to Neisha.Betts@KeyRing.org