By Kyle Dopfel
It should come as no surprise that sometimes, people with ADHD have trouble following the rules. We act on impulse, and forget to think about the consequences. This is why we may often find ourselves on the wrong sides of teachers, bosses, and even law enforcement. Once someone with ADHD gets caught up in the criminal justice system, trouble following complicated court proceedings and adhering to parole/probation regulations only makes matters worse.
Too many times, we’ve witnessed the unhappy cycle of minor violations snowballing into multiple repeat offenses and countless avoidable incarcerations. Many offenders with ADHD aren’t even aware of their disorder, and don’t have the tools to be successful under such scrutiny. This is why we started the ADHD Corrections Project in Wilmington, DE. This pilot re-entry initiative seeks to identify and provide support to inmates with ADHD. We work to equip our participants for successful re-entry through education, screenings, group coaching classes, and eventually follow-up support post-release.
As part of our evaluation of our program, we asked participants of the ADHD Corrections Project to share their stories of how ADHD has impacted their lives, and how this might relate to their experience with the criminal justice system. The resulting journal entries, written towards the close of their eight-week group coaching session, were remarkably thoughtful, hopeful, and compelling. While each inmate's story is unique, we also recognize in them some of the unfortunate experiences that are all too common among those with ADHD. With the permission of our anonymous authors, we'd like to share with you these powerful first-person perspectives on the relationship between ADHD and the criminal justice system.
We’re sure you’ll enjoy this, the first story in this ongoing series, and we invite you to come back regularly to see the new stories as we make them available. Actually, before we went to "press” the second story became available. Enjoy it here.
Kyle Dopfel, ADDA Justice Projects Director, has been actively involved in the ADHD Corrections Project and ADDA for three years. Additionally, she is an active member of the ADDA Communication Committee. Kyle earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from Duke University, where most of her fieldwork focused on justice issues.