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Autism, sexual offending, and the criminal justice system

Melanie Clark Mogavero (Department of Criminal Justice, Georgian Court University, Lakewood, New Jersey, USA)

Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour

ISSN: 2050-8824

Article publication date: 12 September 2016




There has been growing concern among stakeholders about individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and sex offending as research supports an indirect association. The purpose of this paper is threefold: first, bring more awareness of the sexuality and deviant/criminal sexual behavior among those with ASD to stakeholders in the criminal justice system (CJS); second, demonstrate that much of the deviant or sexual offending behavior exhibited among those with ASD is often a manifestation of their ASD symptoms and not malice; and third, demonstrate the necessity to address specific needs of individuals with ASD who enter the CJS due to criminal sexual behavior.


This paper provides an overview of the ASD symptomology, including the diagnostic changes, a review of the literature on ASD and sexuality, which includes deviant sexual behavior and sexual offending.


The author linked examples of deviant or sexual behavior in the research literature to the ASD symptomology and described how the symptomology explains such behavior.


Sexual offending among those with ASD has received little research outside the mental health field. This review is of particular importance to those in the CJS unfamiliar with ASD, as they should handle them differently with regard to formal interviewing, measures of competency, capacity, and sentencing.



Mogavero, M.C. (2016), "Autism, sexual offending, and the criminal justice system", Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 116-126.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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