When autism, child pornography, and the courts collide

Are people with autism over-represented among those prosecuted for possession of child pornography? 

In an investigation for the Marshall Project, Anat Rubin spoke with autism experts and family members of men who have been prosecuted who are convinced that autism made their loved on more susceptible to downloading child porn. 
Rubin followed the ordeal of one family.

The events unfolding in Joseph’s home—the SWAT team, the stunned parents, the vast collection of child pornography on a hard drive—have become increasingly familiar to autism clinicians and advocates. They are part of a troubling and complex collision between the justice system and a developmental disability that, despite its prevalence, remains largely misunderstood in courts across the country.

The result for defendants can be the crushing impact of a system that clinicians say confuses autistic behavior with criminal intent and assumes, without hard evidence, that looking at images could be the precursor to illicit and dangerous contact with kids.

Rubin says of the investigation, that it

throws into question some of our assumptions about men who are caught with images and videos of child sex abuse, and sheds light on the ways in which the criminal justice system is struggling to understand autistic defendants.

Read the full report at the Marshall Project.

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