Elizabeth's new book titled Representing People with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Practical Guide for Criminal Defense Lawyers was just released by the American Bar Association. Topics include:

  • Co-Occurring Disorders
  • Testing
  • Competency
  • Risk of Violence
  • Mitigation.  

Read an excerpt. From Ch. 2, Competency by Dr. Stephen Greenspan
Because ASD (along with ID) is essentially an intellectual disorder (if one considers social intelligence an important part of intelligence), and because the understanding and rationality required for a person to be found legally competent essentially constitute a form of of social and conceptual intelligence (combined with emotional stability, which is also usually lacking in ASD), there is reason to believe that a substantial majority of people with ASD (and ID) should be found incompetent to stand trial. In reality, getting someone with ASD to be found incompetent is usually an uphill battle for the simple reason that most assessments ... never go beyond the shallow level of understanding required for knowledge of actors and the shallow-to-medium level of understanding required for concrete knowledge of a case. Legal reasoning (which is an abstract form of understanding requiring something close to rationality) is typically not addressed at all.
Report Released on Psychological Effects of Family Separation
In February of 2020, the group Physicians for Human Rights released  a report  regarding the psychological effects of family separation. The report came after an in-depth review and psychological evaluation of 26 asylum seekers in the United States. The asylum seekers included nine children and seventeen adults who had been separated from their families.

Psychological Trauma

Physicians noted that individuals who were separated from their families under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy suffered from psychological trauma. This trauma ranged from conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to depression and anxiety. In almost every case they examined, the group noted some level of psychological trauma that required further intervention. Most of the individuals met the diagnostic criteria for at least one mental health condition. 

Many of the individuals were already suffering trauma as a result of violence or other adverse conditions in their home countries. The report concluded that the forced separation exacerbated any pre-migration trauma these individuals endured that led them to seek asylum in the first place. Children, in some cases, were afraid of strangers even after being reunited with their families. In addition, some children showed signs of regression, such as bedwetting and not being willing to leave their parent's side. Reunification was not enough to prevent the trauma. Further interventions and therapy were necessary.
Elizabeth Kelley
Criminal Defense Attorney
Elizabeth Kelley is a criminal defense lawyer with a nationwide practice specializing in representing people with mental disabilities. She is the co-chair of The Arc's National Center for Criminal Justice and Disability, serves on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Disability Rights, Criminal Justice Section Council, and Editorial Board of the Criminal Justice Magazine Learn more .
Further Reading
Even the guards knew she didn’t belong in a jail cell
Last summer, Shawna Thibodeau spent 45 days in a jail cell by herself, terrified and confused.

She was arrested in early June for stealing a necklace from a home in Oakland, where she’d moved after her former residence, a group home, suddenly shut down. It had been a difficult few years, and, by the time of her arrest, she was already facing charges for breaking into homes in Androscoggin and Oxford counties, and was on probation for a theft in 2018.
For Mentally Ill Defendants, Coronavirus Means Few Safe Options
While their mental health deteriorates, some are stuck in jail as hospitals are decreasing admissions to prevent the spread of infections.
An Arrest at St. Patrick’s, a Struggle for Help, Then a Suicide
A New Jersey man charged with attempted arson was released from jail because of coronavirus fears. But he had to wait to begin psychiatric treatment.
Harlem woman helping developmentally disabled adults through coronavirus crisis
When the coronavirus struck the five boroughs, Mark and Heriberto, adults who struggle with intellectual and developmental disabilities, had no idea what to do.
Pandemic means Americans with disabilities aren’t getting the services they need
For more than 60 million Americans with disabilities, the rapid spread of COVID-19 is especially dangerous. Many live in long-term care facilities, and they are twice as likely to experience poverty as those without disability. But so far, legislation has fallen short on help. We hear some of their stories, and Stephanie Sy talks to Rebecca Cokley of the Center for American Progress.
FREE E-Book! Families' Guide to Working with a Criminal Defense Lawyer

When your family member with a mental disability has been arrested or charged with a crime, it can be a confusing and challenging experience that leaves you unsure of where to turn for answers. Here are some key things families can do to help the defense attorney handling their case.
Representing People with Mental Disabilities: A Criminal Defense Lawyer's Best Practices Manual

Elizabeth’s book, Representing People with Mental Disabilities was published by the American Bar Association a little over a year ago. Response to the book has been overwhelming with many attorneys and activists happy to have such a resource.Topics include Competency, Sanity, Neuroimaging, False Confessions, and Prison Conditions.