Experiences of the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care and Rehabilitation) Act 2003: a discourse analysis
The Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care and Rehabilitation) Act 2003 (IDCCRA) was passed in order to better meet the care and rehabilitative needs of intellectually disabled offenders. This legislation represents a unique departure from legislative processes utilised in comparable jurisdictions internationally for this group with the development of an alternative pathway for intellectually disabled offenders. This research explored the experiences of individuals who have become subject to the IDCCRA as described by the ‘care recipients’ themselves and people who were involved in supporting them. A social constructionist methodology was utilised to identify discourses deployed by individuals subject to the IDCCRA both prior to and following release. The research asked the specific question, ‘What are the discourses that come into play prior to and upon release from the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care and Rehabilitation) Act 2003 and how do these discourses construct individuals who become subject to the Act?’ A particular research goal was to identify both dominant discourse and counter discourses within the IDCCRA framework that provided alternative constructions for care recipients. Findings indicate that the dominance of intellectual disability and criminal discourses had a significant impact on the social construction of care recipients as permanently impaired, criminal, vulnerable and risky. I argue that the intellectual disability and criminal discourses have the effect of limiting rehabilitation and the potential for community integration provided under the framework. The research poses that the deployment of a capable person discourse as a counter discourse allows for alternative constructions of care recipients to emerge, such as capable and having potential to change behaviour and become contributing community members. A capable person discourse allows for the implementation of rehabilitation to occur with a focus on learning and improvement. Finally, the research poses that consideration of care recipients as both offenders and intellectually disabled individuals must occur within the philosophical imperatives of rights protection and community participation for the broader group of intellectually disabled people in New Zealand. Rights protection and community participation are key goals of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, of which New Zealand is a signatory, and the New Zealand Disability Strategy. It is essential that the provision of compulsory care and rehabilitation to care recipients is considered within the philosophical imperatives espoused in these documents.