The number of people with autism spectrum disorder has increased, and as this population ages, research is showing high rates of contact with the criminal justice system among this group. Social and communication differences that autistic individuals experience can act as a risk factor during these interactions, as shown by public reports of negative and violent encounters between autistic individuals and the law enforcement. There is a clear need for evidence-based strategies to reduce high rates of contact and to improve outcomes when an interaction occurs. This article provides a systematic review of research on autism spectrum disorder and criminal justice system to compile this evidence base. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis structure was used to identify 89 articles after searching six databases. The Sequential Intercept Model describes the criminal justice system as different stages, or intercepts, that are connected, and the Sequential Intercept Model serves as an overall framework to organize the included articles. Articles were analyzed to identify research themes at each intercept, which offer guidance for policy and program changes that support equitable justice for autistic individuals.
From the article:
Given that this analysis found that police encounters are causing high rates of trauma among autistic individuals, policy and practice changes should focus on reducing contact with the police as much and as safely as possible. The broader social movement has created significant momentum and is informing the design and implementation of alternative responder models. One such example, which can be replicated for autistic individuals, is to have mental health professional teams respond to behavioral and mental health crises and noncriminal acts, and only if necessary coordinate with police to determine if and why a police presence is needed. More research is needed to identify optimal first responder models, and this should include an emphasis on scaling and replicating to local contexts. Emerging alternative first responder models are showing promise. One example is CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On TheStreets), a program in Oregon, USA, that has been in place for more than 30years and demonstrates efficacy, cost savings, and can be safely deployed in other cities eager to replicate it (Pollack & Watson, 2020; Westervelt, 2020). Adaptation and replication of models like CAHOOTS could dramatically reduce the risk of police violence, while improving equitable justice and public safety
Pollack, H. A., Watson, A. C. (2020). From crisis to care: Improved second response to mental health crises. https://www.milbank.org/quarterly/opinions/from-crisis-to-care-improved-second-response-to-mental-health-crises/ Google Scholar | Crossref