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What Happens When Autism And The Law Collide

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Autism Spectrum Disorder is a social disability that leaves the autistic isolated and confused in a world in which they can't understand the social cues others take for granted. To compensate, some use the internet as a way to learn about sexuality that non-autistic people learn about through relationships. 

The internet can bring them to illegal pornography and trouble with the law. Once inside the criminal justice system, they're held to the same sentencing guidelines as the neurotypical -  although their actions may reflect different intent and levels of risk to society. 

Not everyone with autism uses the computer in this way. Downloading child pornography is not widespread among those on the autism spectrum. But, we may need to better understand the vulnerabilities of those that do.


  • Anat Rubin - Reporter covering criminal justice. Her investigation, "Downloading a Nightmare: When autism, child pornography and the courts collide," was published by The Marshall Project
  • Alexander Westphal - Child and forensic psychiatrist, assistant professor in the law and psychiatry division of the department of Psychiatry at Yale, consulting forensic psychiatrist for Connecticut’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services
  • Larry Dubin - Professor of Law at University of Detroit Mercy Law and the father of Nick Dubin. He's the co-author with Emily Horowitz of  Caught in the Web of the Criminal Justice System.
  • Nick Dubin - Author of many books on autism including The Autism Spectrum, Sexuality and the Law and most recently, Caught in the Web of the Criminal Justice System; he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2004

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Colin McEnroe and Jonathan McNicol contributed to this show.

Betsy started as an intern at WNPR in 2011 after earning a Master's Degree in American and Museum Studies from Trinity College. She served as the Senior Producer for 'The Colin McEnroe Show' for several years before stepping down in 2021 and returning to her previous career as a registered nurse. She still produces shows with Colin and the team when her schedule allows.
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