This week, Autism Daily Newscast highlights the many recent events surrounding the issues of law enforcement, the justice system and how they affect those on the autism spectrum. We have articles by mothers with autistic sons, who worry about them getting into trouble with the law and the possible resulting outcomes. However it is not only a gender issue, we only have to look at the tragic and recent shooting of Courtney Topic in Australia to know the possibilities. We start our series with a recap, with samples of what has happened to some individuals on the spectrum, regardless of age. We focus the first two months of 2015.
Austin, Texas Mid January 2015, Jared James, 24, with autism was shot dead by his neighbor after attempting to break into their residence.
James was shot while he was trying to gain access to a neighbor’s home Monday night. John Draub, the homeowner responsible for shooting James, said that he was merely trying to protect his family, which include three children. No charges were made but the state plans to investigate the group home that took James in. ResCare, the company that operates the home, is now under fire as authorities probe if there had been neglect on their part.
A few days later, in Hendersonville, Tenn. — An 8-year-old boy with autism was charged and jailed after allegedly hitting his teacher in the face.
In mid February, in Ridgeland, Mississippi – Agnela Thompson Roby and her husband are seeking the help from the FBI after the Ridgeland Police Department allegedly drew a gun on their six-year-old son with autism.
Sydney, Australia, 22-year-old autistic Courtney Topic was fatally shot in the chest by police when she allegedly failed to drop a knife she had been bandying about.
And last week in Ottawa, Canada, parents of Daniel Ten Oever said a female police officer handcuffed their son in an effort to restrain him after school officials said Daniel started throwing chairs inside the principal’s office in St. Jerome.
According to a 2013 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center and National Sheriffs’ Association, between 1980 and 2008 in the US,
“at least half of the people shot and killed by police each year in this country have mental health problems.”
Those on the autism spectrum are at the highest end of risk when it comes to coming into conflict with law enforcement. Without proper training, police will often mistake autistic behaviours as aggressive, disobedient or one of avoidance. Typical actions by law enforcement such as repeating the same requests or talking loudly can often result in sensory overload for someone on the spectrum and this will only increase their agitation that may then lead to a melt down.
Paddy-Joe Moran goes into greater detail in his article Autism and the Criminal Justice System coming out tomorrow.