Online Program

Young adults with ASD: When offending behavior becomes criminal behavior

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Deborah Viola, PhD, Center for Regional Healthcare Innovation, Center for Regional Healthcare Innovation, Valhalla, NY
Tina Maschi, PhD, LCSW, ACSW, Graduate School of Social Service, Fordham University, New York, NY
Kirsten Forseth, MPH, Department of Health Policy and Management, School of Health Sciences and Practice, Valhalla, NY
Juvenile offenders with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) present a challenge to the criminal justice system due to the nature of the disorder. Several of the characteristics of ASD can be misinterpreted as offending behavior. Studies suggest that more than one third of incarcerated youths are classified under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, four times as many youths in the non-incarcerated population. Recidivism for these youths is estimated to be higher than the already staggering 55% overall juvenile rate. Without an understanding of how ASD is diagnosed and treated within communities and families, we suggest that it is difficult to address the connection between ASD and offending criminal behavior. Further, this understanding can help shape how the criminal justice system responds to young offenders with ASD from first offense through incarceration and reentry.

We will present an analysis of secondary sources to determine whether juveniles with ASD are more likely to come in contact with the criminal justice system or engage in criminal behavior as a result of not having been properly diagnosed or identified by authorities as having ASD. We propose a re-conceptualization of reentry that includes school based or vocation planning, behavioral/physical health care, and caregiver/family involvement. We will present a summary of the limited empirical evidence relating to criminality for those with ASD and policy recommendations for addressing this issue within the criminal justice system.

Learning Areas:

Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Other professions or practice related to public health
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Explain why juveniles with ASD are more likely to be incarcerated. Examine the criminal justice system response to juvenile offenders with ASD, specially the nature of interventions. Formulate policy recommendations to assist the criminal justice system on how to address juvenile offenders with ASD.

Keyword(s): Adolescents, Criminal Justice

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a public health research assistant with interests in understanding the social, environmental and cultural contexts of health disparities in vulnerable populations. Previous research has focused on drug policy analysis and the experiences of people who use drugs. Currently I am studying the offending behavior of young adults with intellectual disabilities and the health of aging prisoners.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.