Governor of Virginia asked to intervene in case involving inmate with autism

RICHMOND, VA – Advocates for mental health and civil liberties are asking Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia to intervene in a case involving an inmate with autism.

Reginald “Neli” Larson allegedly assaulted a correctional officer. This is the third time he has been involved in such an incident. His original arrest in 2010 occurred as he could not answer what he was doing when an officer approached him. The officer touched him and Latson who is autistic reacted with the “fight or flight” reaction, a common reaction for those with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The Arc of the United States, a mental health advocacy group along with its chapter based in Virginia, have also asked the governor to step in. A secured treatment facility in Florida has agreed to accept the 23 year old.

“Mr. Latson is caught in a recurring cycle of prosecution and punishment due to factors related to his disabilities. He is not a criminal,” ARC of the United States CEO Peter V. Berns wrote last month. Latson’s attorneys, family and supporters are in agreement that he needs treatment not punishment, for the intellectual disabilities they believe caused him to react to something he did not understand.

Stafford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen,  did not return telephone messages about the case.

Source: KDWN website: Mental health advocates seek relief for autistic Va. inmate