Guilty But Autistic

The title is definitely meant to be provocative.

This blog post was inspired by an initiative of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Department of Human Services to increase awareness about the challenges of people diagnosed with autism that become justice-involved.

Autism and the Courts | Learn | Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania (

Medical science knows that autism is genetically related to the “schizophrenia” symptom complex.

Excerpting from an abstract on PubMed.Gov:

Autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are effectively syndromic constellations of symptoms that define groups of patients with broadly similar outcomes and responses to treatment. As such the diagnostic categories are likely to be heterogeneous and the boundaries between them somewhat arbitrary.

Given this overlap between these arbitrary and artificially differentiated diagnoses, setting autism apart and distinguishing it by classification from so-called mental illnesses is more socio-political than scientific.

Is Autism a Mental Illness? | Psychology Today

DueJusticeProject does not call anything a so-called mental illness. That terminology should be abolished. There are Mental Health Issues (which refers to non-medical issues) and there are Brain Function Disorders. The term “Mental Illness” is a metaphor just like Mental Health is and brain function disorders should not be termed or classified by a metaphor that is, moreover, misleading about the essential nature of the affliction.

As neurodevelopmental disorders that involve the impairments that catapult people into the criminal adjudication system are concerned, it is interesting indeed that the PA Supreme Court and DHS has chosen to lead this public awareness discussion within the narrow scope of Autism and Criminal Justice. That is wrong. It is inconsistent with medical science. We have to wonder – what are the ultimate goals of this education campaign?

Does this inquiry lead to recognition that certain neurobehavioral symptoms are being criminalized? We have stated on this website that criminalization by definition means unjust conviction and punishment. Will this exploration lead to diversion? We have also said that the present day models of “mental health” courts are inherently unjust, premised on conflation between mental health and cerebral illness (brain function disorders) and inconsistent with medical science. If these conclusions become the trajectory of this exploration, then where does that leave people that have been set apart under diagnosis with so-called mental illness?

Prison Is Even Worse When You Have a Disability Like Autism | The Marshall Project

“Anosognosia and Autism – A Real Concern” – Planet Autism Blog (

Autism Shares Brain Signature with Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder – Scientific American

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