Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 340–346 | Cite as

The Prevalence and Correlates of Involvement in the Criminal Justice System Among Youth on the Autism Spectrum

  • Julianna RavaEmail author
  • Paul Shattuck
  • Jessica Rast
  • Anne Roux
Original Paper


This study examined the prevalence and correlates of involvement in the criminal justice system among a nationally representative sample of youth with autism. We examined whether youth had been stopped and questioned by police or arrested at 14–15 years old and 21–22 years old. By age 21, approximately 20% of youth with autism had been stopped and questioned by police and nearly 5% had been arrested. Female youth were less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system, whereas youth displaying externalizing behaviors were more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system. Further research is needed to investigate factors associated with involvement in the criminal justice system among youth with autism and to implement prevention strategies.


Autism Autism spectrum disorder Transition-age youth Criminal justice involvement Risk factors Prevalence 


Author Contributions

JAR conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, performed statistical analysis and interpretation of the data, and drafted the manuscript; PS conceived the study, participated in the design and coordination of the data, and helped draft the manuscript; JER participated in the design of the study, performed statistical analysis and helped draft the manuscript; AR participated in the design and coordination of the study and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This study did not receive funding.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Julianna Rava declares that she has no conflict of interest. Paul Shattuck declares that he has no conflict of interest. Jessica Rast declares that she has no conflict of interest. Anne Roux declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


  1. Allen, D., Evans, C., Hider, A., Hawkins, S., Peckett, H., & Morgan, H. (2008). Offending behaviour in adults with asperger syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(4), 748–758. doi: 10.1007/s10803-007-0442-9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. American Psychiatric Association [APA]. (2014). Autism spectrum disorders. Retrieved December 1, 2014, from
  3. Bowling, A. (2005). Mode of questionnaire administration can have serious effects on data quality. Journal of Public Health, 27(3), 281–291.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Brookman-Frazee, L., Baker-Ericzén, M., Stahmer, A., Mandell, D., Haine, R. A., & Hough, R. L. (2009). Involvement of youths with autism spectrum disorders or intellectual disabilities in multiple public service systems. Journal of Mental Health Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 2(3), 201–219. doi: 10.1080/19315860902741542.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. Cameto, R., Wagner, M., Newman, L., Blackorby, J., & Javitz, H. (2000). National longitudinal transition study II (NLTS2)–sampling plan. Retrieved from
  6. Cashin, A. R., & Newman, C. R. (2009). Autism in the criminal justice detention system: A review of the literature. Journal of Forensic Nursing June 2009, 5(2), 70–75. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-3938.2009.01037.x.Google Scholar
  7. Cheely, C. A., Carpenter, L. A., Letourneau, E. J., Nicholas, J. S., Charles, J., & King, L. B. (2012). The prevalence of youth with autism spectrum disorders in the criminal justice system. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(9), 1856–1862. doi: 10.1007/s10803-011-1427-2.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Christensen, D., Baio, J., Van Naarden Braun, K., et al. (2016). Prevalence and characteristics of autism spectrum disorder among children aged 8 years—autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network, 11 sites, United States, 2012. MMWR Surveillance Summaries 2016, 65(3):1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Crane, L., Maras, K. L., Hawken, T., Mulcahy, S., & Memon, A. (2016). Experiences of autism spectrum disorder and policing in England and Wales: Surveying police and the autism community. Journal of Autism And Developmental Disorders, 46(6), 2028–2041.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Greenberg, M. T., & Lippold, M. A. (2013). Promoting healthy outcomes among youth with multiple risks: Innovative approaches. Annual Review Public Health, 34, 253–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hall, A. V., Godwin, M., Wright, H. H., & Abramson, R. K. (2007). Criminal justice issues and autistic disorder. Growing up with Autism: Working with School Age Children and Adolescents, 272–292.Google Scholar
  12. Heeramun, R., Magnusson, C., Gumpert, C. H., et al. (2015). Autism spectrum disorders and criminal convictions: The role of psychiatric comorbidity. In C. Kerns (Ed.), Co-Occurring psychiatric disorders and the lifecourse in ASD: Clinical and epidemiological perspectives. Panel conducted at the International Meeting for Autism Research, Salt Lake City, UT.Google Scholar
  13. Howlin, P. (2004). Autism and asperger syndrome: Preparing for adulthood. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Johnson, C. P., & Myers, S. M. (2007). Identification and evaluation of children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 120(5), 1183–1215.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. King, C., & Murphy, G. H. (2014). A systematic review of people with autism spectrum disorder and the criminal justice system. Journal of Autism And Developmental Disorders, 44(11), 2717–2733.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Lerner, M. D., Haque, O. S., Northrup, E. C., Lawer, L., & Bursztajn, H. J. (2012). Emerging perspectives on adolescents and young adults with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders, violence, and criminal law. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online, 40(2), 177–190.Google Scholar
  17. Mayes, T. A. (2003). Persons with autism and criminal justice core concepts and leading cases. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 5(2), 92–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Mouridsen, S. E. (2012). Current status of research on autism spectrum disorders and offending. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6(1), 79–86. doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2011.09.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mouridsen, S. E., Rich, B., Isager, T., & Nedergaard, N. J. (2008). Pervasive developmental disorders and criminal behaviour. A case control study. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 52, 196–205.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Orsmond, G. I., Shattuck, P. T., Cooper, B. P., Sterzing, P. R., & Anderson, K. A. (2013). Social participation among young adults with an autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism And Developmental Disorders, 43(11), 2710–2719.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  21. Raghunathan, T. E., Lepkowski, J. M., Van Hoewyk, J., & Solenberger, P. (2001). A multivariate technique for multiply imputing missing values using a sequence of regression models. Survey Methodology, 27(1), 85–96.Google Scholar
  22. Shattuck, P. T., Orsmond, G. I., Wagner, M., & Cooper, B. P. (2011). Participation in social activities among adolescents with an autism spectrum disorder. PLoS One, 6(11), e27176. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027176.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. Shattuck, P. T., Roux, A. M., Hudson, L. E., Taylor, J. L., Maenner, M. J., & Trani, J. F. (2012). Services for adults with an autism spectrum disorder. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 57(5), 284.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Trier-Bieniek, A. (2012). Framing the telephone interview as a participant-centred tool for qualitative research: A methodological discussion. Qualitative Research. doi: 10.1177/1468794112439005.Google Scholar
  25. Vermeiren, R., Jespers, I., & Moffitt, T. (2006). Mental health problems in juvenile justice populations. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 15(2), 333–351.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Williams, K., Rivera, L., Neighbours, R., & Reznik, V. (2007). Youth violence prevention comes of age: Research, training and future directions. Annual Review of Public Health, 28, 195–211.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Woodbury-Smith, M., & Dein, K. (2014). Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and unlawful behaviour: Where do we go from here? Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(11), 2734–2741.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Woodbury-Smith, M. R., Clare, I. C. H., Holland, A. J., & Kearns, A. (2006). High functioning autistic spectrum disorders, offending and other law-breaking: Findings from a community sample. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 17(1), 108–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Woodbury-Smith, M. R., Clare, I. C. H., Holland, A. J., Kearns, A., Staufenberg, E., & Watson, P. (2005). A case–control study of offenders with high functioning autism spectrum disorders. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 16(4), 747–763.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.A.J. Drexel Autism InstitutePhiladelphiaUSA

Personalised recommendations