The prevalence of youth with Autism spectrum disorders in the criminal justice system

Catherine A. Cheely, Laura A. Carpenter, Elizabeth J. Letourneau, Joyce S. Nicholas, Jane Charles, Lydia B. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Past surveys have reported high rates of youth with disabilities in the juvenile justice system, however, little research has examined the frequency with which youth with Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are in contact with law enforcement. Using records linkage with the Department of Juvenile Justice and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the South Carolina Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Program (SC ADDM), this study compares the frequency, type, and outcome of criminal charges for youth with ASD and non-ASD youth. Youth with ASD had higher rates of crimes against persons and lower rates of crimes against property. Youth with ASD were more likely to be diverted into pretrial interventions and less likely to be prosecuted than comparison youth. When compared to the overall SC ADDM sample, charged youth were less likely to have comorbid intellectual disability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1856-1862
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Autism
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Criminality
  • Juvenile justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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