by guest contributor Joseph M. Jason
“If societies are judged by how they treat their most disabled members. Our society will be judged harshly indeed,” said E. Fuller Torrey M.D., a research psychiatrist and Treatment Advocacy Founder.
Many of you have autistic children and that is why you have joined your respective autism organizations. Some of you have family members with Asperger Syndrome or high functioning autism. I know what it is like to live with somebody with Asperger Syndrome, who struggles to look their own parents in the eye, and not being able to reciprocate with the love that you have for them. I grieved when at a young age it became apparent that Daniel could not make friends. I grieved when I coached his baseball teams and he would sit on the bench by himself. My son graduated from the University of Iowa with an A- average. I grieved when I took him on numerous interviews and he could not be hired due to his autism. I grieved when he fell in love with a girl and she finally rejected him and he could not accept it. To him, nobody else would ever love him. I grieved when we had to hospitalize Daniel a couple of times in his youth. I grieved when his roommates at college could not stand living with him and tried to beat him. I grieved when he got caught up in the legal system and not many cared about him. I have spent years advocating for him. Daniel is not violent but yet he will waste at least 5 years being incarcerated. What a tragic waste of a life. Without the autism, he could be a CPA, an attorney, or an investment banker. With a criminal record, what job will be ever hold now?
I am here to warn you that some of you will have your children become part of the legal system. My son, Daniel, is one of the first to have been incarcerated with Asperger Syndrome.
I have condemned the recent sentencing of two men with Asperger Syndrome to 27 months and another to over 8 years. The first one is Daniel. I called for Federal Judge Reade to resign as well as Stephanie Rose, United States attorney in northern Iowa to resign. Had they both taken the time to read information about Asperger Syndrome and organic brain disorders, both might actually have had compassion instead of advocating for continued inhumane incarceration in the Iowa gulag. I am ashamed for the Iowa prosecutors and judges for continuing to incarcerate instead of offering treatment. Volumes of information was given to both of them and they chose to ignore it. I have stated that a sweeping reform is needed in Iowa and the rest of the Unites States. I stated that this should be a wakeup call for everybody. Your children may be next. Daniel has not been allowed outside since he was arrested in March of 2007. We treat our terrorists better.
Please read the articles that I will be providing to educate yourselves. Law enforcement in the State and Federal jurisdictions will treat your children as thugs and incarcerate them with true criminals. I have been advocating in the state of Iowa for 4 years. My pleas have mostly fallen on deaf ears. I have provided much information that explains Daniel’s child-like behavior to prosecutors and they have ignored me. In fact instead of shipping him close to us in a Federal prison, they have shipped him off to Oklahoma City. We live in Illinois.
The following is from a recent report from Forensic Psychiatrist Doctor Mills dated 06/01/2010. He has testified in numerous court cases and these include for the government. Doctor Mills stated “Incarceration likewise is counterproductive because time in custody fails to help Mr. Jason acquire the social (and related) skills that he needs in order to become economically self-sufficient, and fails to give him the opportunity to make new, more appropriate social relationships. While time in custody serves the goal of ‘neutralization,’ it does little to provide Mr. Jason, affirmatively, with the skills he will need if he is meaningfully invested in new relationships (and thereby stop his obsessive ruminations about past ones) and become a productive member of society.”
Dr. Mills continues “To conclude, you asked me to be completely candid in my assessment of Mr. Jason. I have done so both to honor your request and because I do too many criminal cases, for both sides, to have anything other than respect for the complexities and competing perspectives in such matters generally and in this compelling case, particularly. Still, I would reiterate that Mr. Jason’s disorder is real, serious and not of his choosing. Further, his misconduct clearly emanated from that disorder. Given that fact, I would hope that a fair-minded prosecutor balancing these many considerations would be moved by Mr. Jason’s clinical situation and would work with you to find a better alternative than further prosecution and (probably) counterproductive incarceration.
Doctor Olson said it best when he said:
“Mr. Jason is an unfortunate young man who has a brain disorder. He has suffered from the impact of this disorder since at least his early childhood. He does not have an antisocial personality or criminal mind.”
As long as I breathe, I will not bow to the criminalization of Asperger Syndrome and mental illness. I will not break. I will continue to advocate.
The present situation, whereby individuals with serious mental illnesses are being put into jails and prisons rather than into hospitals, is a disgrace to American medicine and to common decency and fairness.”
I have been told from reliable sources that my son would not be incarcerated in the State of New York.
Joseph M. Jason
Criminal Justice Action Committee
NAMI Barrington area President
Commentary by blog author: Joseph M. Jason has worked tirelessly towards educating judicial systems and others about the effects of Asperger’s Syndrome and autism. His son, Daniel, did commit crimes, but they were non-violent crimes. He never hurt anyone. His doctors have verified that he is not capable of hurting anyone. One of the symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome is that he often makes verbal threats with no inclination to carry them out. Iowa courts failed to see this, favoring to treat him harshly by giving him the maximum sentence allowable by law.
Correctional systems have the express intent of punishing offenders with the intent that if they miss out on years of their lives, they will learn to live by societal rules. This is not the case for people with organic brain disorders, who are incapable of rationalizing cause and effect, rendering any jail time, moot.
I only take exception to one sentence in this editorial. Dr. Olson said that Daniel was “unfortunate.” Daniel’s current circumstances are unfortunate. However, to have such loving parents, who advocate so strongly on his behalf, I would have to contest that adjective.
I suggest that as a son, he is indeed “fortunate.”