This Giant Steamroller That’s Moving Inexorably Towards You but Very Very Slowly
An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Autistic Adults’ Experiences of the Aotearoa New Zealand Criminal Justice System
The past two decades have seen increasing social science and legal interest in the relationship between autism and criminal justice. Most publications have been case study or legal analyses, or focussed on quantitative topics (for example prevalence or offence type). What is noticeable by their relative absence are the voices of autistic people, especially those who have been suspected of or charged with a crime, and for whom legal proceedings occurred in the regular criminal system. This runs counter to the goals of the autism rights movement and critical autism studies which value the experiences and opinions of autistic people, and promote research that will make a positive difference to their lives.
This research investigates the lived experience of 10 autistic adults subject to the Aotearoa New Zealand criminal justice system. Through interpretative phenomenological analysis, six superordinate themes were identified. Illustrated through participant quotes, these were: unease with New Zealand Police; overwhelming legal processes; encounters with mental health professionals; the impact on self and others; recommendations from the participants; and adversity across the lifespan. The thesis also identified four factors, power, process, perception and participation, that both influenced how the participants made sense of their CJS experiences and were compelling forces for change.
- Critical autism studies
- New Zealand criminal justice system
- Interpretative phenomenological analysis
- Lived experience