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Neurodiverse prison unit protects, teaches inmates with autism

Prison psychological specialists Christine Ransom, top right, and Randy Kulesza, top left, lead a group session for inmates, Dec. 14, 2023, in the Neurodevelopmental Residential Treatment Unit at Pennsylvania's State Correctional Institution in Albion, Pa. The prison unit is helping men with autism and their intellectual and developmental disabilities stay safe behind bars while learning life skills. The unit is the first in the state and one of only a handful nationwide. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
Prison psychological specialists Christine Ransom, top right, and Randy Kulesza, top left, lead a group session for inmates, Dec. 14, 2023, in the Neurodevelopmental Residential Treatment Unit at Pennsylvania's State Correctional Institution in Albion, Pa. The prison unit is helping men with autism and their intellectual and developmental disabilities stay safe behind bars while learning life skills. The unit is the first in the state and one of only a handful nationwide. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

In a small prison unit in Albion, Pennsylvania, 45 inmates with intellectual disabilities and autism are learning social skills like how to greet each other. There are signs on one wall giving suggestions and sensory rooms where they can take a break if they’re overwhelmed.

The Neurodevelopmental Residential Treatment Unit at the State Correctional Institution is the only one in Pennsylvania — and one of only a handful around the country. Program manager Steven Soliwoda says it keeps inmates safer and also provides skills they’ll need when released.

Soliwoda discusses it with host Robin Young.

Watch on YouTube.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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