The ACT government does not know how many Canberra prisoners have disability despite the auditor-general three years ago recommending Corrective Services collect the data.
What data the government has - captured in a 2016 census of one-quarter of the prison population - found 28 per cent of detainees had an intellectual disability, a figure almost 10 times higher than that in the general population.
Further, the territory's two-year-old commitment to a disability justice strategy has so far resulted in just $302,000 in the last budget linked only to "initial consultation with key stakeholders" and the sponsorship of "a presentation by an expert" last month.
"The ACT government remains committed to recognising and responding to the disadvantage faced by people with disability when dealing with the justice system," a government spokesman said.
He also cautioned the prison used a different measurement in diagnosing intellectual disability to those favoured by other government agencies.
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Few Australian jurisdictions maintain data on people with disability within the justice system despite international research noting the impact of disability and mental illness on offending.
Extensive analysis of NSW data released in 2016 by UNSW criminologist Eileen Baldry challenged the perception all prisoners were wilful offenders by highlighting the prevalance of people with disability in prisons.
"A person with [cognitive disability] may have poor control over their behaviour, not foresee the results of their behaviour, act on false or distorted beliefs and react impulsively in a stressful or threatening situation," she wrote for the ABC.
Professor Baldry told the Sunday Canberra Times jails too often filled gaps caused by a lack of services for people with disability.
“It is very important that we assess and that we gather this data and that we make this data publicly available so the Australian population can understand who is going to prison and what some of the issues are that we need to be more aware of," Professor Baldry said.
“It’s really up to governments to ensure that this information is publicly available so there isn’t hysteria around offending but that there is some clarity regarding why is it that someone with a profound disability is kept in prison when really one would think maybe there should be ... a community environment."
The ACT's current system has detainees self-identify their disability upon entry to the Alexander Maconochie Centre and ACT Health notified of requirements for specific support or services.
But the territory's own 2016 detainee health survey noted although 28 per cent of detainees screened positive for intellectual disability, just 14 per cent of the prison population had previously been diagnosed by a doctor or health professional.
"[Self-identified] data ... will be collected online once the Corrective Services Information Management Solution is operational in 2019,” a government spokesman said this week.
Advocacy for Inclusion chief executive Nicolas Lawler commended the Alexander Maconochie Centre for making progress on identifying and offering programs targeted at prisoners with disability.
But he added it was important accurate data was gathered to ensure everyone was getting the appropriate supports.
"We’re also talking about when people are released needing the best chance to integrate back into society and back into their lives, and to implement programs within the prison," he said.
In her 2015 report on the rehabilitation of male detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre, Auditor-General Maxine Cooper said: " ... there is a need to examine whether detainees ... with an intellectual or physical disability could be better supported.
"Furthermore, it will be important for evaluations of any interventions to be undertaken so that resources are effectively targeted."
An ACT government spokeswoman would not comment on whether further funding for a disability justice strategy would be provided in the upcoming budget.
The 2016 detainee health survey, released last year, also found more than half of respondents had received one or more mental health diagnoses in their lifetime, including depression (42 per cent), anxiety disorder (29 per cent), and substance use disorder (27 per cent).