A newly released study finds autistic youth interactions with the criminal justice system and police encounters are becoming more common and can be more fatal across the United States, according to Society & Culture.
Researchers from the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, at Drexel University, found autistic individuals encounter police at a high rate and people with disabilities disproportionately experience police violence.
The statewide survey in Pennsylvania, titled “Justice System Interactions Among Autistic Individuals: A Multiple Methods Analysis,” reviewed free-text responses and multiple-choice questions of autistic individuals and their caregivers, about their positive and negative experiences with the criminal justice system.
“These findings are impactful because they come directly from the voices of autistic individuals and their families,” said the lead author of the study, Kaitlin Koffer Miller, who is also director of Policy Impact in the Policy and Analytics Center in the Autism Institute. “Understanding the type and scope of justice interaction helps to plan for and address issues that could prevent future interactions of all types.”
The new study analyzed 3,902 individuals, which represents 47% of the 8,240 individuals who responded to a 2018 Pennsylvania Autism Needs Assessment survey. Of the 3,902 that were analyzed, 839 individual respondents reported information about their criminal justice system interactions.
The study highlights autistic individuals and their caregivers both as victims and offenders reported the article.
Autistic adult males were almost twice as likely to be stopped and questioned by police, arrested or charged; adult females were 32% more likely to be the victim of a crime.
Any autistic individual who also had a psychiatric co-occurring diagnosis had 2.7 times the odds of experiencing any justice interaction and 2.4 times the odds of being a victim of a crime.
Caregiving respondents reported that having a household income greater than $40,000 was protective against being a victim of a crime.
Caregivers reported that living with a roommate or family members was protective for autistic children against being the victim of a crime.
The research team reported that having access to more home and community-based services and support can mitigate interaction between autistic individuals and the justice system.
The study could also help propel policy, expand pilot justice programs, mental health services and crisis responses. It was recently published in the journal Crime & Delinquency.