Individuals with mental illness, psychologists, and activists yet again are forced to reiterate that mental illness does not lead to violence against others. iustitia has commented on why focusing on mental illness in the wake of mass shootings is dangerous and risks stigmatization. But there is a mental health connection in police involved shootings that has constantly evinced media coverage and consequently, solutions. This narrative serves to conceal a brewing crisis that must be unmasked and that lies at the intersection of police-involved shootings and mental illness.
Individuals with autism who end up embroiled in the criminal justice system often find themselves not only brutalized by police because of law enforcement’s failure to recognize and understand autism, but also severely punished if they end up in prison. Some are even re-victimized because of mental health illnesses that result from traumatizing experiences associated with their incarceration. For many, particularly children, the penchant to place incarcerated individuals with autism in solitary confinement—either for their own safety or as punishment for perceived misbehavior—raises concerns under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution and may amount to a breach of the international prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.