As both an advocate for those on the autism spectrum as well as for criminal justice reform, I’ve seen competing interests get in the way. I believe advocates from both groups want the same thing but political correctness and optics sometimes hinder broader goals from being accomplished.
Let’s start with where both sides agree: Neurodiversity advocates and criminal justice reformers both believe autistic people deserve fairness in their interactions with law enforcement. No one from either group would argue that the police are receiving the necessary de-escalation training they need. Steve Silberman’s recent New York Times Op-Ed eloquently describes the problem as it exists today. As Silberman suggests, a double rainbow of sorts exists for individuals of color and those on the autism spectrum. Behavior that is not easily understood by untrained law enforcement combined with institutionalized prejudices associated with race can be a lethal combination for minority individuals with disabilities.