Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 46, Issue 8, pp 2770–2773 | Cite as

Brief Report: Judicial Attitudes Regarding the Sentencing of Offenders with High Functioning Autism

  • Colleen M. BerryessaEmail author
Brief Report


This brief report presents preliminary data on the attitudes of judges on the sentencing of offenders with High Functioning Autism (HFA). Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with twenty-one California Superior Court Judges. Interviews were qualitatively coded and constant comparative analysis was utilized. Findings revealed that judges consider HFA as both a mitigating and aggravating factor in sentencing, and knowledge of an offender’s disorder could potentially help judges understand why a criminal action might have been committed. Judges voiced concerns about the criminal justice system being able to effectively help or offer sentencing options for offenders with HFA. Finally, judges reported that they are focused on using their judicial powers and influence to provide treatment and other resources during sentencing.


Judiciary High Functioning Autism (HFA) Sentencing Punishment Prison 



The research on which this publication is based has been supported by funding from the National Institute of Health grant P50 HG003389-09 (Center for Integration of Research on Genetics and Ethics). The data reported here were collected as a part of a larger project on judicial attitudes on offenders with autism and genetic mental disorders; three other papers on this larger project have been published thus far.

Author contribution

C.B. designed the study, collected and analyzed the data, and drafted the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Colleen M. Berryessa declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethics Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stanford Center for Biomedical EthicsStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Department of CriminologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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