Previous prevalence studies of likely autistic spectrum condition (ASC) within criminal justice settings have focussed on specialist forensic mental health settings. The purpose of this paper is to examine prevalence of autism in a general community forensic sample.
In total, 336 offenders managed by a probation office were administered with a recognised screening tool to identify likely autism (AQ-10). Screenings were scored and those above the threshold were identified, where possible further diagnostic information was sought on positive-screened cases.
In total, 4.5 per cent (15 offenders) of the caseload screened positive for autism. Descriptive demographic information such as gender, age and offence type is provided for this group. Further diagnostic information was available on eight of the cases. Three already had an autism diagnosis and further psychometric assessment indicated that a further three cases were 80 per cent likely to be diagnosable with autism.
Demographic information on the sample could not be compared with norms across the whole probation caseload due to limitation of resources for the project. No further diagnostic information was available on six offenders who screened positive for autism.
The research indicates that autism is not substantially over-represented in a large community offender sample although further research is required to identify the full degree of representation.
Different kinds of offences are observed to be committed by offenders who do exhibit autism. It would be useful for criminal justice staff to have a general knowledge about autism, also how people with autism might offend and how they might best be supervised by probation services.