Vol. 8, No. 2, 2002 Page 1&3
ADHD in prisoners 'problem of great magnitude'
Rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are remarkably high among
prison inmates, according to a recent Norwegian study that also found a high prevalence
of reading disability and personality disorders in this population.
Kirsten Rasmussen and colleagues evaluated 82 male prisoners convicted of murder,
other violent acts, sexual offenses, arson, fraud, theft, drug- or alcohol-related crimes, or
serious traffic crimes. Using a range of tests, the researchers calculated the rates of past
childhood ADHD, current adult ADD (attention deficit disorder), reading problems, and
personality disorders among the subjects. They found that:
In summary, the researchers say, their data indicate that "persistent ADHD, comorbid
with both personality disorders and reading disability, constitutes a problem of great
magnitude among prisoners." Their findings are consistent with a previous study by A.
Dalteg et al., who found that about half of the prison population they studied fulfilled the
criteria for childhood ADHD, and that about half of that group had ADHD persisting into
- Forty-six percent of the prisoners exceeded the cutoff score of 46 for ADHD on the
Wender Utah Rating Scale, and another 18 percent scored in the screening window of 35
- Thirty percent of the prisoners met criteria for adult ADD, and an additional 16
percent had scores indicating probable ADD.
- One in three prisoners performed very poorly in the reading test, with scores
corresponding to a third- or fourth-grade reading level.
- Forty-two percent of the ADHD prisoners had reading problems, compared to 25
percent of non-ADHD prisoners.
- Eight-six percent of the prisoners qualified for a diagnosis of personality disorder,
with a significant relationship seen between ADHD and personality disorders.
"Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, reading disability, and personality disorders
in a prison population," Kirsten Rasmussen, Roger Almvik, and Sten Levander,
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, Vol. 29, 2001, 186-
93. Address: Kirsten Rasmussen, Sör-Tröndelag Psychiatric Hospital, Regional Secure
Unit Bröser, P.O. Box 1803 Lade, 7440 Trondheim, Norway, stps-