Serving Children Who Suffer from Autism in the Juvenile Justice System
With criminal justice reform, comes discussions on focusing towards better serving children and teens on the autism spectrum who have become entangled in the juvenile justice system. Washington State University posted an article about how youth on the spectrum need more access to mental health support and programs. This would allow for them to have counseling and supporters that can advocate for their needs in the system.
A juvenile probation counselor in Washington’s Cowlitz County thinks more training is necessary for police and corrections officers to help them recognize signs of autism, as many do not realize the wide variety of signs that people can exhibit. According to the CDC data from 2016, 1 in 54 children in the United States have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls, making this a very real and relevant circumstance that officers or court officials will come into contact with a child suffering from autism.
With this comes the approach of transitioning from a punitive system to a more rehabilitative one to help youth and reduce recidivism. Effort must be put into creating more resources and support for children suffering from autism that are intertwined with the law. By taking a more rehabilitative approach, the juvenile justice system can improve recidivism rates and keep children out of prison. Individuals need to be more cognizant and supportive that children who suffer from autism do not necessarily realize right from wrong. Even though they may require more mental health support, they are children who wish to have a normal life and are as teachable as other children not suffering from autism.