A Systematic Review of People with Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Criminal Justice System

Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Glynis H. Murphy.

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King, C., Murphy, G.H. A Systematic Review of People with Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Criminal Justice System. J Autism Dev Disord 44, 2717–2733 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2046-5

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Keywords

  • Autism
  • ASD
  • ASC
  • Asperger syndrome
  • Crime
  • Offending
  • Criminal justice