FASD & the Justice System

People with FASD have a permanent disability requiring accommodations similar to other physically disabled people. We would not expect a paraplegic to get up and walk nor would we think that shouting at a deaf person will correct their hearing. Similarly, we cannot wish away the disabilities faced by those with FASD, but we can assist them with accommodations.

Multiple stimuli can cause distress for people with FASD. They may either shut down or react in anger or they may misinterpret what is happening during an arrest or court process. It is important to learn which situations provoke reaction and modify them.  There are likely to be better results when the environment is adapted and the stress level reduced.

Consider using the strategies listed in Trial to work with a person with FASD to get relevant information and a cogent version of events.

  • Check out the individual’s understanding of what he or she is being asked
  • Verify the person’s story
  • Don’t assume that what you see is indifference  
  • Prepare the person repeatedly for court
  • Provide one direction or rule at a time
  • Use a lot of repetition
  • Establish a mentor/buddy/ role model system
  • Develop and utilize diversion programs
  • Use simple reminder slips
  • Provide phone calls to remind the person of court appearances and meetings
  • Utilize support persons
  • Use simple wording on release forms and probation orders
  • Be consistent in probation / parole follow up – Every day at the same time is best.

(Dubovsky, 2008).

Court orders for diagnostic assessment and referrals to community and professional support may be appropriate. (Diversion and Conditional and Alternative Sentences)