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Examining Criminal Justice with Autistic Adults in Canada

What are the experiences of Autistic people with the justice system in Canada?

Autism Alliance of Canada has partnered with Trent University to achieve a better understanding and appreciation of how the criminal justice system is experienced and perceived by Autistic adults in Canada. 

This project is led by Assistant Professor of Sociology at Trent University, Dr. Stephanie Ehret, in collaboration with Dr. Mackenzie Salt, Autistic Researcher and Autism Alliance of Canada’s Health System Impact Fellow. This project is supported in part by a Partnership Engage Grant worth from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

Autistic people are not more likely to be involved in criminal behaviour than Allistic (non-Autistic) people, but, for a number of reasons, they are more likely to encounter the legal system. Our goal is to learn about their experiences and their perceptions of the system. We are interested in their views of the criminal justice system, whether they have direct experience or not.

Dr. Stephanie Ehret
Assistant Professor of Sociology at Trent University

This study will take place in two parts:

Part 1: A nationwide online survey

  • What is it?
    • A survey capturing views and ideas of Autistic adults about the criminal justice system in Canada.
  • Who can participate?
    • Adults (18 years or age and older) who identify as Autistic and would like to share their experience, other insights and/or concerns about the criminal justice system in Canada.Even if you have not had any direct experience or interactions with the criminal justice system, we are still interested in learning about your opinions and perceptions of it.
  • What to expect? 
    • This survey is estimated to take between 20-25 minutes to complete. It is available in both English and French.

Part 2: Single-session Focus Groups

  • What is it?
    • A focus group session where Autistic adults can share their lived experience with the criminal justice system in Canada.
  • Who can participate?
    • Adults (18 years or age and older) who identify as Autistic and have had lived experience with the criminal justice system in Canada. This lived experience can range from minor events such as a traffic stop, to wellness checks, to more serious ones in which there are criminal charges.
  • What to expect? 
    • Participants will take part in one session via Zoom. The session is estimated to last between 1 -2 hours. Dr. Mackenzie Salt, who is an Autistic researcher, will be leading each session. The session will be conducted in English.
  • How to participate?

If you have any questions about the study, you are welcome to contact the Principal Researcher, Dr. Stephanie Ehret, at stephanieehret@trentu.ca

A note on language:

We use the term ‘Autistic people’ recognizing many Autistic self-advocates embrace identity-first language; it captures autism as a fundamental part of a person and their identity rather than seeing a person as harmed or oppressed by their autism. To be clear, we do not strive to tell you what language to use and you are welcome to use the language and terms you prefer.