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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Autism, Crime, and Judges

Colleen M. Berryessa, "Judicial Perceptions of Media Portrayals of Offenders with High Functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorders," International Journal of Criminology and Sociology, 2014, 3, 46-60 [full text available at link]
In recent years, sensational media reporting focusing on crimes committed by those diagnosed with or thought to have High Functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorders (hfASDs) has caused societal speculation that there is a link between the disorder and violent criminality. No research exists on how and if the judiciary understands and is affected by this coverage. Therefore this study aims to examine how judges perceive and are influenced by media attention surrounding hfASDs and criminality. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 California Superior Court Judges, including questions on media portrayal. Judges perceived general media portrayals of hfASDs in both positive and negative ways. However, almost all judges who had experienced media coverage surrounding hfASDs and criminality identified it as misleading and harmful to public perceptions of the disorder. These findings suggest judges are not exempt from media attention surrounding violence and hfASDs, and they recognize the potential adverse effects of this negative coverage. Although judges’ report their opinions are not affected, the results demonstrate that judges are worried that the public and potentially other criminal justice actors are adversely affected and will continue to be moving forward.

Claire King, Glynis H. Murphy, "A Systematic Review of People with Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Criminal Justice System," Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, February 2014 (online first):
This paper provides a systemic review of the available literature on people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the criminal justice system (CJS). The review considers two main types of study: those that examined the prevalence of people with ASD in the CJS and those that examined the prevalence of offending in populations with ASD. In addition, types of offences in people with ASD, co-morbid psychiatric diagnoses, and characteristics of people with ASD who commit offences (including predisposing factors) are considered. A combination of search terms was used in a variety of databases in order to find all of the available literature on this topic, and research studies were included based on specified inclusion and exclusion criteria. It was found that whilst there is an emerging literature base on this topic, there are a wide variety of methodologies used, making direct comparison difficult. Nevertheless it can be concluded so far that people with ASD do not seem to be disproportionately over-represented in the CJS, though they commit a range of crimes and seem to have a number of predisposing features. There is poor evidence of the presence of comorbid psychiatric diagnoses (except in mental health settings) amongst offenders with ASD, and little evidence of the oft-asserted over-representation of certain kinds of crimes. It is recommended that further research of good quality is required in this area, rather than studies that examine populations that are not representative of all those with ASD.