The Vital Need To Address Childhood Trauma In Prisoner Rehabilitation

A study conducted by Stensrud et al., 2018 involving 328 male and female prisoners found that the majority reported having experienced far more ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES (ACEs) than the average citizen from the general population and that this was especially the case amongst those who had experienced childhood sexual abuse.

A survey of prisoners in HM Prison Parc in Wales found that 84% had experienced at least one ACE whilst 46% reported having experienced 4 or more ACEs (compared to 12% in the general population). Compared to those who had experienced no ACEs, the prisoners from the latter group were:


  • 4 times more likely to have a conviction for criminal damage
  • 3 times more likely to have been convicted of a violent crime
  • 3 times more likely to have been convicted of theft
  • 2 times more likely to have been convicted of drug offenses


The figures provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are even more emphatic; according to these statistics, about 97% of inmates have experienced at least one ACE. Furthermore, inmates have, according to the CDC, experienced an average of FIVE ACEs! 

Horstman, founder of the Compassion Prison Project (in relation to this project, see the link to a most enlightening documentary at the end of this post) lists typical inmate adverse childhood experiences as including:

ACEs and Violence

Research also suggests that in male prisoners risk of violence is increased by about a third to one and a half times for EACH ACE that the prisoner had experienced (Reavis et al., 2013).

According to a Ministry of Justice report, 24% of adult prisoners were in care as children and 41% had witnessed violence in the home. 

History of School Attendance

Furthermore, according to the same report, 59% had regularly played truant from school, 62% had been suspended and 49% had been permanently excluded from school (each of these behaviors/outcomes are far more common amongst children who have experienced significant childhood trauma).

Care Home History

The report also states that 24% of the prison population lived in care as children (the Commission for Social Justice (CSJ) puts the figure at 27%).

These findings, which reflect the findings of many similar studies, draw further attention to the vital importance of addressing childhood trauma in the rehabilitation of offenders.


David Hosier BSc; MSc; PGDE(FAHE). is reader-supported. When you buy through links on this site, I may earn an affiliate commission.