What is the Campaign for Justice?

The goal of the Campaign for Justice is to provide funding for the important training of legal aid organizations that give a voice and representation to autistic citizens who need help accessing justice. These nonprofit organizations collectively provide services throughout the United States, and all provide or support free criminal and civil legal services to indigent autistic citizens, as defined by statute. The Campaign for Justice was created to provide legal aid organizations with training, created by private lawyers, united in a mission to spread autism awareness. We create awareness of the importance of legal aid and of increasing the resources available to meet the needs of indigent autistic citizens.Campaign for Justice

The Campaign for Justice consists of four key components: educating policymakers about the importance of legal assistance; encouraging legal aid attorneys to learn about autism; increasing individual contributions to the Campaign for Justice Gap Fund to pay for legal assistance organizations assisting indigent autistic citizens; and encouraging pro bono services that leverage legal aid resources. By expanding awareness of the importance of legal assistance for autism, the Campaign for Justice seeks to increase local and statewide legal aid resources so autistic citizens are not denied justice simply because they cannot afford an attorney.

Why a Campaign for Justice?

We have observed and discovered too many cases where an autistic citizen was mistreated in courts where the litigators and even the judge are unaware of the particulars of autism. One example is Sky Walker, a young man from Ohio with severe autism and developmental disorders. Sky was non-verbal, and responded by spitting. After he sadly murdered his mother, Sky was arrested. At his arraignment, as the judge asked questions, Sky spat in reply. The judge deemed this to be disrespect and ordered him restrained, with his head in a plastic bubble. Because of the lack of knowledge among the parties, he spent seven months awaiting the outcome of psychiatric examinations before it was determined he was unfit to stand trial. He now lives in a criminal psychiatric facility near Toledo.

In a case involving a 19 year old mildly autistic man who was bullied and beaten, the lack of awareness of the prosecutor and judge had dire consequences. The young man was peppered with very fast questions by the defense counsel who knew the vulnerabilities of autism. Unable to process the questions fast enough, or formulate his answers as he’d like, this poor fellow had a meltdown, beginning to bend at the hip while in the witness chair. He ultimately hit his head so hard on the wood railing in front of him that he fractured his skull. Had the judge been watching, or the prosecutor, and neither treating this man like anyone else, this added tragedy wouldn’t have happened.

Legal help is needed now more than ever in these troubled economic times. While the safety net is shrinking, America’s most vulnerable autistic residents are facing housing crises, job losses, assault, bullying, domestic violence, elder abuse, and obstacles to health care and education. When justice is available to those who need it, society benefits from increased family stability, safer communities, and a stronger workforce.

Yet, research shows that most people do not really know what legal aid does, or how important legal aid is in making a difference in people’s lives. This Campaign for Justice seeks to change that, first by creating awareness, and second by increasing funding. When you support the Campaign for Justice, you support critical access to healthcare, safety, food, education and shelter.

Who benefits from the Campaign for Justice?

The Campaign for Justice supports training for nonprofit legal aid organizations throughout the country that provide legal help to hundreds of thousands of autistic individuals every year. These organizations form broad and creative partnerships to effectively leverage resources and expand critical legal services. Some programs provide services directly, and other programs coordinate legal services through attorney and law student pro bono. From the smallest legal aid program that serves frail autistic seniors to the largest legal aid program that provides statewide protection and advocacy for people with disabilities; from the legal aid organization that fight to protect autistic youths, to the program that secures guardianships for caretakers – each of these legal assistance organizations has a mission to provide legal aid to autistic citizens who otherwise could not afford access to justice.

How Can You Help?

Autism Citizen: Because everyone with autism is a citizen.
The Campaign for Justice seeks to promote awareness of the importance of legal aid for those citizens on the autism spectrum and to support additional funding for established legal aid programs. In this era of reduced resources and increased need, legal aid needs your help to support the many autistic citizens who have lost their homes, their jobs, and their healthcare. If you already give to legal aid – either your time or money – we urge you to continue to do so. If you already know about the important work of legal aid, we ask you to join the Campaign for Justice and educate others. If you do not already support legal aid, now is the time to do so. Donate to support critical legal services for those with autism.

You may also send an email to reception@autismcitizen.org with the heading “Campaign for Justice” and tell us where you’re based, or, use our form.